In a primary season that must seem like a bad dream to the Establishment, the GOP elite suffered their worst nightmare yet Saturday as Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz thoroughly dominated the evening.
Combined, Cruz and Trump won from about two thirds of the vote — their result in Kentucky — to the almost 80 percent they amassed in Lousiana, a stunning drubbing of Establishment candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich.
Rubio, in particular, had the night from hell, never getting close to second place and solidifying the sentiment that he has no pathway toward winning. He came in dead last in Maine, stuck in single digits and trailing Kasich by four points. Apparently, the plan to turn Rubio into an insult-machine has failed spectacularly.
Tellingly, the Establishment losses were not just some anomaly limited to a single demographic, but ranged from New England to the Midwest and then down to the Gulf Coast.
Trump called for Rubio to put an end to his suffering.
“I think Marco Rubio had a very, very bad night,” Trump said during a press conference after the results came in. “And personally, I’d call on him to drop out of the race. I think it’s time now that he drop out of the race. I really think so. I think it’s probably time.”
Rubio appeared in Puerto Rico, where he was stuck in a deep state of denial.
“We’re going to leave tonight with more delegates than we had,” he proclaimed. “I’ve explained repeatedly this is a proportional process and every night that we have caucuses like there were tonight in three states, we continue to pick up delegates.”
Cruz had the best night of all. He won two of the four states, Kansas and Maine, and can now convincingly make the case that the race is a two-man contest between him and Trump.
For Trump, the night offered a dose of humility. While he took Lousiana and Kansas, he didn’t do so in typical Trump fashion, barely eking out wins in each and falling short of the large leads he held in polls before the contests.
Unlike many previous primaries and caucuses, all of Saturday’s were “closed,” meaning only Republicans could vote and Democrats could not cross over. This suggests Trump may do less well when his ability to draw disaffected Democrats is cut off. But part of what fed Cruz’s strength may have been that, with the exception of Louisiana, all of the contests were caucuses, where Cruz’s superior organization helps give him the upper hand.
Cruz has now taken 6 states to Trump’s 10, and there are 13 more closed primaries and caucuses to come, in which Cruz could potentially do well.
All told, Cruz picked up 66 delegates Saturday, Trump took 51, Rubio got 13 and Kasich nine.
On the Democrats’ side, the Establishment also had its problems. Sen. Bernie Sanders won convincingly in Nebraska and Kansas, while Hillary Clinton took Louisiana, where the African-American vote that supports her was heavy.
Clinton’s ongoing struggle to connect with white voters, especially young ones, could be a significant challenge to her general election prospects.
This post also appears on LifeZette.