We were all enjoying this Trump joke, right? This real estate tycoon who says offensive things, gets in petty twitter fights, and is a sexist — there’s no way that guy actually gets any, ya know, what do you call ’em — votes, right?
Well, it seems like someone forgot to tell Donald Trump that this was all a joke, because as of right now, he’s winning.
Let’s break it down.
The first step to becoming President is securing your party’s nomination. This used to be a contest of who could smoke the most cigars in a political party’s backroom, but now both the Democrats and Republicans let the voters choose the nominee.
So every state (and even some US territories!) have a primary or a caucus. These are elections that allocate a certain number of delegates from that state to represent each candidate. You need a certain number of delegates to get the party nomination (kinda like an electoral college in the national election, except just for the party).
So far, the Republican Party has had four states vote for the nominee:
So if you weren’t counting at home, Donald Trump has won 3/4 of the first four contests. That puts the current delegate score here:
Donald Trump has a significant lead in delegates (which again, are “points” allocated to candidates based on the percent of the vote they got in each contest).
“Okay,” a rational person might suggest. “But it’s only four states! There’s the rest of the country left, right?”
And thats correct. There is a long way to go. But the road doesn’t get any harder for Trump, and as he has racked up more victories, his polling numbers have gotten stronger. More victories convince voters that you are “legit,” and you slowly build momentum toward inevitability. Oftentimes the last primaries are just beauty contests for the one remaining candidate:
See the poll averages? When Trump lost Iowa (the only race he’s lost so far) he saw a dip in the polls, but saw a surge after winning New Hampshire and South Carolina. The more you win, the more support you get.
Where does this leave us?
Super Tuesday (aka the SEC Primary) on March 1st
The states in blue are the lump of states that will vote next Tuesday, the biggest single Delegate-haul day of the year. In almost all of those states, Donald Trump appears to be the favorite (with the exception of Texas, where he is still competitive).
Can he still be stopped? Maybe; if Rubio or Cruz outperform on March 1st or drop and out and endorse the other (not likely). After that, his momentum only builds to the inevitable point where the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee is Donald J. Trump.
The General Election
Okay, so Trump is the nominee. Now he has to become the President.
And it’s not a smooth road. Especially since the Electoral College appears to be demographically stilted toward the Democratic Party. But here are the recent polls.
It’s a close race, and it’s a LOT closer than it was over the summer. This also assumes Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, which absolutely isn’t a sure lock, even if it is still where the safe money is.
We still have nine months of this nonsense. Nothing is etched in stone. But if you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent — whatever — who is uneasy with the idea of Donald Trump as President, maybe register to vote? Cuz this could be a close one…