If you think the arguments between the Republican candidates have been bad, well, you’ve seen nothing yet. Pundits, reporters and political analysts are about to really have at it. Two competing theories about the Republican race are about to come to a head, and both of them can claim a victory of sorts after South Carolina.
The first theory is simple. It can be summarized in one word: Trump! The more detailed version would argue the following:
- Trump has easily won two of the first three states.
- Trump is ahead in the polls in pretty much every remaining state.
- Trump is ahead in delegates — in fact, he may win all 50 delegates from South Carolina.
- Trump has been extremely resilient despite pundits constantly predicting his demise.1 He’s been at 35 percent in national polls for months now. That’s as steady as it gets!
So, ummm, isn’t it obvious that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee?
Not so, say the Trump skeptics. Their case is pretty simple also:
- Trump is winning states, but he’s only getting about one-third of the vote.
- Trump has a relatively low ceiling on his support.
- Trump now has a chief rival: Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
What did the Trump skeptics find to like about South Carolina? Quite a lot, actually. They’d point out that Trump faded down the stretch run, getting 32 percent of the vote after initially polling at about 36 percent after New Hampshire, because of his continuing struggles with late-deciding voters. They’d note that Trump’s numbers worsened from New Hampshire to South Carolina despite several candidates having dropped out. They’d say that Rubio, who went from 11 percent in South Carolina polls before Iowa2 to 22 percent of the vote on Saturday night, had a pretty good night. They’d also say that Rubio will be helped by Jeb Bush dropping out, even if it hadalready become clear that Rubio was the preferred choice of Republican Party “elites.”