The whole idea of analyzing this race as an establishment vs. anti-establishment battle has been all wrong. That is simply not how voters think. Trump and Cruz are not doing anything new that we haven’t seen before. They are playing out the classic Rockefeller vs. Goldwater conflict that we also just saw play out with Romney vs. Santorum four years ago. Rubio is filling the role of Gingrich, someone who treads the ground between moderate and conservative and can’t quite seem to win any states.
Fox News has been spinning the false narrative that South Carolina was “tailor-made” for Cruz and saying “if he can’t win there, where else can he win?” This is a COMPLETELY MADE-UP FALSE NARRATIVE. It was never a favorable state for Cruz. It was a state where Santorum finished a distant third four years ago, behind more secular candidates Gingrich and Romney. While Cruz does have a real but mostly still untapped potential to appeal to secular voters, the Faux narrative that evangelicals made South Carolina a very favorable state for Cruz is JUST WRONG.
South Carolina went for the most “tough-talking” candidate last time with Gingrich and again this time with Trump. Establishment Romney came in 2nd last time just as Rubio did this time. The conservatives in this state seem to like aggression in a candidate above all else. There also appears to be a solid establishment streak in the state.
To put Trump’s victory in perspective, he got a lower vote total in SC than Gingrich got and a much lower percentage. Cruz and Rubio both performed about as well as Romney and well above Santorum.
Cruz continues to have a path forward to victory because the other Southern states just don’t have the same profile as South Carolina. Santorum won most of the other Southern states last time just like he won Iowa, despite getting trounced in South Carolina much worse than Cruz did. These upcoming states are therefore much more favorable ground for Cruz. If Cruz can win Santorum’s states, he can perhaps gain the momentum to flip some other states Santorum lost (hopefully not wasting any more time in the Romney/Trump home field advantage northeastern states).
For now Cruz is stuck in the “social conservative” lane, a lane which NEVER included South Carolina as fertile ground. This is the lane he needs to perform well in as he works on broadening his base to include national security conservatives, economic conservatives and people who just have faith he can beat the Democrat.
Below is a list of all the states voting in March and how they would vote if they followed the basic pattern Romney and Santorum experienced. While I haven’t tried to count all the delegates they will be handing out, I am seeing 13 Trump states and 16 Cruz states (plus maybe Puerto Rico for amnesty pimp Rubio). For us to see a clear winner in March, either Cruz or Trump will probably need to flip some of these states from their opponent’s predicted column into theirs.
February/March primary states:
Romney won, could go to Trump:
Idaho (I guess?)
Northern Mariana Islands
Santorum won, could go to Cruz:
Gingrich won, could go to Cruz:
Romney won, could go to Rubio:
Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky were late May votes last time so they went for Romney, but seem like solid Cruz states.
Virginia only had Romney and Paul on the ballot but it had a huge protest vote against Romney through Paul. North Carolina was also a late Romney state last time so hard to to say where it goes, but perhaps with momentum in the rest of the South Cruz could pick it up. Ohio was a dead heat last time with a tiny Romney victory, but Gingrich also did well there, so I’d say that’s a Cruz-leaning state. Utah was a solid Romney state because Mormons, but polling seems to show Cruz on top there now.
Romney won, could go to Cruz: