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The Smoking Hole Strategy

Ted Cruz had as good a night as he could have expected. The results are not fully in, so he could yet win Missouri, a winner-take-most state, and get a bonus 12 delegates. But he’ll probably finish with around 44 delegates to Trump’s 210–give or take.

Looking ahead, Trump will need to take just over 60 percent of the remaining 946 unallocated delegates. Cruz will have to take between 85 and 90 percent (88.16% by my model, but again, the numbers are not all in yet).

Math is a cold and unyielding friend. By the math, 33 percent of the remaining delegates are in winner-take-all contests. Of those, five of the contests will likely go to Trump: Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That’s 234 delegates. That means Trump only has to take 47 percent of the other 712 delegates. That’s a pretty low bar.

It means Cruz absolutely has to either stop Trump in Arizona or one of the other WTA states (possible, but difficult, even unlikely), or sweep some of the proportional or winner-take-most states. A win in Wisconsin, West Virginia (which has a direct delegate election), Washington, and New Mexico would really be necessary. Taking everything in New York outside NYC would also be useful, but again, unlikely.

The math is difficult. Between California and New York, there’s just not enough fly-over country left for Cruz to sweep the nomination without leaving a smoking hole where Trump stands.

So that’s what Cruz must do. He’s got to go negative. Real negative. Not the way Rubio did, although having Rubio around to cut Trump out at the knees would be very useful (he has a way of getting under Trump’s skin, although that value would be limited now that Rubio is out of the race). I mean take on Trump by forcing him to answer on the issues and tear him to shreds in advertisements, speeches and online.

The only way to stop Trump in states where he’s got tremendous pull and media is to go nuclear, open the treasure chest and spend it. The negative approach does work, especially when Cruz no longer has to fight Rubio. (Kasich is a joke, and anyone who votes for him should lose the right to vote ever again. It’s like a vote for Lassie, or Bozo.)

Even if Cruz is able to blunt Trump’s lead, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to win 800-plus delegates–again, it’s just math. In fact, it’s very possible that if Trump does win Arizona on March 22, there won’t be enough delegates left for Cruz to win outright, but he could stop Trump short of 1237. Trump knows this, and has already planned some massive rallies in Phoenix and other cities.

Cruz has to stop Trump in Arizona, and to do it, he’s got to leave a smoking hole. It may not be enough to win outright, but if Trump goes into the convention short of 1237, it’s better than making him the nominee without a fight. (And by the way, John Kasich hopes to be the king maker in Cleveland, and that’s got to be the most despicable political act of this century. He, like Pete Rose, should be banned for life.)

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