Trumpâ€™s amateur approach is costing him the election
Back in October, I tipped Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination as a trading bet. As always with such bets, the trick is trading out at the right time. So with Cruz now at less than 2/1 across the board, when is that time?
The simple answer is â€˜not yetâ€™. In a normal year, a candidate in Trumpâ€™s position would have the nomination near-enough sown up. Although heâ€™ll probably fall short of the magic 1237, heâ€™s still almost certain to arrive in Cleveland with very substantial leads in delegates, states won and votes cast, and that ought to be enough.
But this isnâ€™t a normal year and Trump isnâ€™t a normal candidate. The intensity of the desire among many to stop him, the potential for Trump to throw away the election in a single line and his national poll ratings in both favourability and head-to-heads provide the motivation and justification for denying him the nomination.
If not him then who? To start with, Cruz may be the only other one in the race. The infamous Rule 40b requires any candidate nominated at the convention to have the majority support of at least eight state delegations. Trump and Cruz both meet that criterion; no-one else comes close. Although that doesnâ€™t necessarily rule other candidates out in later rounds of voting, once delegates become unbound, it gives the front-runners a mighty lead.
That rule, however, isnâ€™t set in stone: it will need to be reconfirmed prior to the convention. If the Rules committee does dilute or delete the rule then itâ€™s a clear sign that thereâ€™s a concerted effort to draft an alternative candidate to both Trump and Cruz. If not, while it wonâ€™t bar others from entering later on, the inference would have to be either that the mainstream are willing to throw their lot in with Cruz or that Cruzâ€™s supporters have a firm grip of the levers of power
Should punters be looking to back Cruz then? The problem is that Cruz has two spanners rattling around his works, excluding his voting record, political beliefs, favourability ratings and other known knowns. There is the question of his eligibility and the allegations of extra-marital affairs. That latter question has gone relatively quiet and may well prove to be a Gennifer Flowers rather than Donna Rice. All the same, heâ€™s probably on a yellow card with the public on that score.
The matter of his eligibility is of a different order though. The simple fact is that he was born in Canada, only one of his parents was an American at the time (his father didnâ€™t become one until as late as 2005), and neither was serving the government. The question as to whether he is in fact a natural born citizen is yet to be categorically answered. However, if itâ€™s not answered before July then it canâ€™t stop him from becoming nominee and as far as the nomination betting goes, thatâ€™s all that matters.
Against all those risks to his candidacy have to be offset against his campaign strengths and Trumpâ€™s weaknesses. And one of those weaknesses is that Trump might be a fine entertainer but he really isnâ€™t very good at politics; he either doesnâ€™t understand the nuts and bolts of the exercise of power or he canâ€™t be bothered with them. That showed again in Colorado this week when Cruz almost swept the board at the state convention and Trump ended up with nothing.
In fact, the attention that the Cruz campaign has paid in general to delegate selection (and Trumpâ€™s campaignâ€™s insouciance on the issue until recently) may well also pay handsome dividends for the Texan. Itâ€™s entirely possible that there will actually be more Cruzers than Trumpets in the hall come July. On the first ballot, of course, that wonâ€™t matter; on subsequent ones, itâ€™s a different story. The intricacies of internal party manoeuvring donâ€™t make headline news in America, never mind over here. All the same, the outcome of those contests could well ultimately be a critical factor and the data will be out there.
The key question is how does Trump get from the 1150 or so delegates heâ€™s likely to end up with to 1237? Given the outright hostility to him from many quarters of the GOP, and his inability or unwillingness to play (or even understand) the game heâ€™s in, far from gaining support as the convention progresses, itâ€™s quite likely that heâ€™ll go backwards.
Quite simply, he should not be odds-on at this stage. Because of the doubts over Cruz, Iâ€™d be wary of backing him too heavily, though itâ€™s an option. The value bet though is to lay the Donald.