Welcome to Armageddon


Today is Judgment Day.

Well, not the BIG Judgment Day. Probably. After all, no one knows the day or the hour. But it's certainly the day Republican and Trumpite voters will decide who get a whole passel of delegates from Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Missouri- and quite conceivably whether the Republicans have any chance whatever of beating Hillary Clinton in the Fall.

The two remaining candidates with any real chance of doing that- John Kasich and Marco Rubio- are fighting for survival, facing strong challenges from a candidate who in any other year would be treated as a joke, laughed at and forgotten early in the process. After a series of polls showing a tightening race, four recent polls have shown Donald Trump decisively defeating Marco Rubio in Rubio's home state of Florida despite an apparent victory for Rubio in early voting. Rubio must win in Florida to continue to be a serious candidate, and will probably withdraw if he loses.

In Ohio, John Kasich has rallied in recent days to take the lead over Trump in some polls. Rubio has urged his supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich. Everyone agrees that it's going to be close. If both Kasich and Rubio lose, the race will boil down to Trump- a candidate with a 60% negative rating from voters, for whom nearly as many Republicans say that they would not vote in November as have voted for him in the primaries- and Ted Cruz, the quirky, much-disliked poster child for shutting down the government who has yet to repudiate a religious background which advocates making Leviticus American civil law and who has been proclaimed by his preacher-father to be one of God's anointed End-Time "kings" mandated, according to a bizarre interpretation of a passage from Proverbs, to re-distribute the world's wealth.

Cruz is running as a "Constitutional conservative." Comparatively few conservatives seem to have seen the irony.

Even a wounded- perhaps even an indicted- Hillary Clinton would probably have little trouble defeating either of the Republican party's strange pair of front-runners. Rubio's chances in Florida are improved by the fact that it has a closed primary, in which only already-registered Republicans can vote. This should minimize the number of generally non-voting Trump supporters who can simply show up at the polls, do their damage, and disappear again. Ohio is a "semi-open" primary in which only registered Republicans can vote, but in which independents and Democrats can change their registration fo Republican on Election Day,

Prayers are in order. If both Kasich and Rubio lose, the only remaining hope of beating Hillary Clinton in the Fall will be that nobody reaches the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination at Cleveland on July 18-21. In that case, there's a good possibility that the convention might select a "dark horse-" a candidate who didn't run this year, but behind whom a majority of the delegates can line up. Trump supporters, who apparently feel that contrary to the rules their candidate is entitled to the nomination if he merely gets a plurality of the votes, would probably revolt, but it's hard to see anything they could do that would hurt the Republican party as much as nominating Trump would.

The likelihood of such an outcome could dramatically increase tonight, I expect Trump to have little trouble winning the primary in Illinois though I have a hunch Cruz might win in Missouri. But most of them are selected in both states by Congressional district. Both Ohio and Florida are "winner take all" states. A sweep of the four would help Trump a great deal. But a split- say, Trump winning Florida and Illinois, Kasich winning Ohio, and Cruz winning Missouri- would leave Trump still far off the pace he would need to get a majority at Cleveland. If Trump wins only one state, his prospects will be even darker. And as of tonight, a majority of delegates to the convention will have been selected.

At the moment, Trump has 469 of the 1,237 delegates he would need, to 370 for Cruz, 163 for Rubio, and 63 for Kasich. Pending tonight's vote, an open convention such as the GOP had in 1976 and 1952 (and used to be the norm before the advent of the primary system) actually seems to me a little more likely than a Trump nomination.

In that case, it would be possible that the convention might turn to Cruz. But I doubt it. I have a feeling it could be the most entertaining convention of my lifetime. The ideal result might be the emergence of a new, fresh, carefully-selected face who would contrast with Hillary's tired and all-foo-familiar one in a way which would bode well for an enjoyable Election Night for Republicans and a good four years for the nation.

In the meantime, I'm still rooting for an upset tonight in Florida and a renewed burst of momentum for Rubio. Failing that, John Kasich would be the guy I'd root for. Better Cruz than Trump- but better somebody new, emerging from an open convention, than either.

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