Ever since Trump rose to the top of the polls, we've been told by some pundits that there'd be a "firewall" in the latter part of the nomination contest -- in blue and purple states with lots of delegates, a sensible moderate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio is sure to do better than an angry wild man like Trump. As FiveThirtyEight's David Wasserman pointed out a few weeks ago, every congressional district awards three delegates, regardless of the district's redness or blueness. This favors a moderate candidate, Wasserman wrote:
The average blue district awards one convention delegate per 28,912 Romney voters, while the average red district awards one delegate per every 56,714 Romney voters. Thanks to this disparity, if a hard-right candidate like Cruz dominates deeply red Southern districts in the SEC primary, a more electable candidate like Rubio could quickly erase that deficit by quietly piling up smaller raw-vote wins in more liberal urban and coastal districts.(The "SEC primary" is the "super Tuesday" that will take place on March 1, when a large number of mostly Southern states will vote.)
But if the field gets winnowed down and it's a race between Trump vs. Cruz, with states such as New York, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey voting late, the "moderate" who'll be favored in those states is likely to be ... Trump.
Cruz's strength, beyond the fact that he's as crazy as Trump, is that he appeals to conservative Christian voters as a fellow evangelical. That's a big reason he's gaining ground as Ben Carson, another religious-right favorite, fades.
But that's why the states that were supposed to be the GOP Establishment's firewall could be Trump's firewall. The more urbane states are wary of candidates who stress Christian conservatism -- that's why Trump has consistently had a bigger lead in New Hampshire, where religiosity is much less of a selling point, than in Iowa, where it's a huge selling point. Trump still does well in states with a lot of religious Republicans -- fascist authoritarianism playes well anywhere Republicans gather -- but he does better in the secular states, and Cruz does much worse. (Cruz may be close to the lead in Iowa, but he's still a distant third in New Hampshire, as he is in a new Suffolk poll of Massachusetts, where he's 22 points behind Trump.)
Cruz's top surrogate in heavily religious states is his father, Rafael, a fire-and-brimstone wingnut preacher who argues that evolution is Marxist and gay marriage is satanic. Those messages that have a lot less appeal in states where there are still country-club Republicans, some of whom even support gay rights.
So the guy that establishmentarians were counting on to stop a crazy front-runner could turn out to be ... the crazy front-runner himself.
Oh, and I'm not particularly impressed by Philip Bump's gloss on the latest Suffolk/Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire:
Suffolk and the Globe added something to the mix. If we added Mitt Romney to the list, they asked, would you switch to him? For 30 percent of respondents, the answer was "yes." Romney leads all other Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Trump loses a third of his support.Yup -- but Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Fiorina, and especially Bush lose big as well, and Trump still has a huge lead among all non-hypothetical candidates:
Bump suggests that this means Trump's support is extremely soft. He writes:
When news of this survey first came out over the weekend, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver noted that this reinforced the idea that much of Trump's support comes from name recognition. Give voters another name they know, and that name gets a lot of support, too."Another name they know"? They don't know the name "Bush"? And why has Ben Carson done as well as he has in the polls? Does he have Trump-level name recognition?
Mitt Romney isn't doing well in this New Hampshire poll because he has name recognition. Romney is doing well because he was the governor of a neighboring state who owns a house in the state and remains popular there. Try polling Mitt in Iowa or South Carolina (or Texas or Mississippi) -- I bet you get a very different result. Meanwhile, the strongest challenge to Trump from an actually existing candidate could be from a crazier one than Trump.