Can Rubio or Kasich defeat Donald Trump in the primaries today?

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2016 07:43 IST
Tuesday sees five key states holding primaries, which could clinch the nomination for Donald Trump. (AP Photo)

Will it be Marco Rubio or John Kasich? Which of them will stop Donald Trump, beating him in the primaries Tuesday? Or, will the frontrunner vanquish them both and become unstoppable?

The Democrats, who are holding their nominating contests simultaneously, are likely to find out how much longer is Bernie Sanders’s renegade campaign going to deny Hillary Clinton?

Five key states — Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina — are holding primaries for both parties Tuesday, but it’s the Republican race that’s attracting the most attention.

Trump — who leads the field in nominating contest wins, he count of delegates needed for a show of strength at the party convention in July, and polls — could become unstoppable.

Completely in dread of that prospect, the party establishment, a loosely defined body of insiders and past and present elected officials, is fervently hoping for one of his rivals to stop him.

Rubio, a first-time Cuban-American senator from Florida, is their current favourite and leads the stop-Trump campaign in his home-state funded by party surrogates and donors.

Unfortunately for the establishment, and him, Rubio is in a bad shape in the polls in Florida — trailing Trump 24.4% to 43%, which makes defeat a certainty, unless the polls don’t hold.

Rubio is hoping for a miracle because if he loses, he will come under pressure to quit the race to make way for the consolidation of anti-Trump votes behind a better placed challenger.

Trump’s opponents believe he is vulnerable in a two-man contest because he has failed to poll more than 50% in surveys and in the primaries and caucuses so far.

Most Republicans, they argue, remain unconvinced about him, but are currently split among his many rivals giving him a numerical advantage in polls and votes.

But if they coalesced behind any one of his rivals — Rubio, Ted Cruz, who is currently second to Trump, or Kasich — they could easily bring down the frontrunner, goes the argument.

Trump leads the national average of polls with 36% with Cruz next at 21.8% and Rubio 18%. And he leads the count of delegates 460 to Cruz’s 370 and Rubio’s 163.

All fie Republican primaries Tuesday follow the winner-takes-a format, and are crucial for that reason too — with the potential to bolster a campaign with just one wins thus as he leads his rivals in all but one of the five states polling Tuesday. The exception is Ohio, where he is trailing Kasich.

But even if Kasich were to win, he is unlikely to gain much from it, according to pundits and experts, this being only his first win in the nominating contests so far.

Cruz, who is running second to Trump in polls and nominating contests, may look like the best-placed alternative in numbers, but he is thoroughly despised by party leaders and colleagues.

Barnstorming across Florida last week, Cruz made a case for himself arguing he can stop Trump, and not the local hero Rubio, which some said, was actually a strategy to stop Rubio.

Allan Lichtman, a professor a DC’s America University and a political commentator said this about the Tuesday primaries: “The most likely outcome is Donald Trump will pad his delegate lead going into the next round of primaries, that Rubio will be out of the running, Kasich will either be out of the running if he loses Ohio or dangling on life support, since he really doesn’t have much beyond Ohio. Ohio would be his only win, and that would essentially leave the Republican contest down to a battle between Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, with Trump having a big advantage.”

On the Democratic side, Clinton is leading decisively in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina and is locked in a close connotes with Sanders in Illinois Missouri.

Experts contend, however. that despite Sanders’s surprise wins recently, say Michigan, his path to a nomination is not yet as clear as Clinton, who leads in polls, primaries and delegates.

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