He could be the only one who can stop Trump
Itâ€™s probably all over: the sex scandal now engulfing Ted Cruz means that Donald Trump is highly likely to be the Republicansâ€™ nominee for president. Highly likely but not certain.
The dilemmas of the Never Trump brigade as to what strategy to adopt in order to stop him have their answer; thereâ€™s only one possible. They must get behind John Kasich as soon as possible in order to deny Trump the delegates he needs to win outright, before manipulating the convention to crown someone else.
Are we getting ahead of ourselves there? Perhaps â€“ Cruz may be vindicated and the story may blow out. Betting is, after all, a percentage game and at the moment much depends on the relative credibility of the Enquirer story on the one hand, and Cruz himself on the other.
However, there he has a problem. Trump was already labelling him â€˜lying Ted Cruzâ€™ at every opportunity. As an astute observer mentioned to me, Trumpâ€™s use of adjective in relation to his rivals has been one of the most effective aspects of his campaign. The story of Cruzâ€™s alleged infidelities plays perfectly into Trumpâ€™s description of him. So letâ€™s work on that percentage that the story will prove terminal.
That would leave Kasich as Last Man Standing. For him to take the nomination would be a long shot. For a start, heâ€™d need more than half of the remaining 849 delegates if we allocate Trump the vast majority of New Yorkâ€™s 95, as seems reasonable.
One thing that Kasich does have going for him is that not only is he a stop-Trump candidate, for the Republican mainstream heâ€™s also a far more attractive one than Ted Cruz. Until now, his lowly position in the race has prevented that mainstream getting strongly behind him for fear of splitting the anti-Trump vote. If Cruz either formally withdraws or continues to run but collapses in support, that resolves that problem.
Whatâ€™s more, if the Cruz scandal does propel Kasich into a clear second, heâ€™ll arrive in Cleveland with far more delegates than previously looked likely. That alone would place him in a far more powerful position to push his claim for the nomination should Trump fall short (and conversely, reduces the chance of a White Knight candidate in the form of Ryan, Romney or whoever).
All the same, Trump would have a commanding lead even if he fails to quite reach the magic 1237; almost certainly more than twice as many as anyone else. The PR of rejecting someone with such a strong mandate in favour of a â€˜serial loserâ€™, as Trump might well describe him, would be sub-optimal. Passionate arguments could be guaranteed; violence and riots not ruled out. Put that together with the chance of Trump winning outright and you have his justifiably short odds.
However, as always, betting is about value and Cruz’s problems have given Kasich a credible route to the White House for the first time. The 50/1 available from Betfair, as I write, strikes me as more than double the true value. Iâ€™d make him around 9/1 for the nomination at this moment and 8/11 for the general if nominated.
Unsurprisingly, the Kasich-Clinton head-to-heads havenâ€™t been paid much attention so far. Itâ€™s now time to do just that. The Huffington Post average gives him a 4.5% lead over her (in contrast to a 9.7% deficit for Trump and a 4.5% deficit for Cruz). Of course, those figures might well change once Kasich comes under closer scrutiny but a 9-point relative advantage against Cruz and a 14-point one against Trump is still impressive.
Now that backing Kasich is likely to be the most effective means of stopping Trump, youâ€™d think that some effort will be put in to engineer that nomination if possible.
REMINDER: The next PB gathering takes place at the Shooting Star, near Liverpool Street Station on Friday April 8th from about 1830.