As more GOP primaries are held today, conservative organizations are seeing momentum shift away from frontrunner Donald Trump.
Voters in four states are going to the polls today to vote in Republican primaries: Mississippi, Idaho, Hawaii, and – the biggest delegate prize on this date – Michigan. The Associated Press reports today's contests are unlikely to dramatically reshape the GOP's primary landscape. But that's not the case in next Tuesday's high-stakes primaries in Florida and Ohio – both of which are "winner-take-all" states.
Donald Trump continues to lead in the overall delegate count (392) for the GOP presidential nomination. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with 305 delegates, remains within striking distance; further back are Florida Senator Marco Rubio (153) and Ohio Governor John Kasich (35). The magic number to win the nomination is 1,237.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that almost half of Republican-leaning adults would be "dissatisfied" with Trump as the party's nominee. That's consistent with the sentiment among anti-Trump voters who want one or more Republican presidential candidates to drop out of the race and help the remaining candidate(s) have a better chance of beating Trump.
Leon Wolf of RedState had stated in recent weeks that Marco Rubio was the candidate for conservatives to get behind.
"A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the math – in particular, the exit polling of the first four races – and concluded that Rubio was probably the better guy to take on Trump," Wolf said yesterday. "And the reason for that is fairly simple: it is that Cruz, at least up until that point, had really only experienced success with voters who identified as either evangelical Christian or very conservative. In all other categories, he lost to Donald Trump heads up and, in fact, also lost to Marco Rubio."
Now, however, Wolf doesn't see Rubio winning the nomination – even if he were to win Florida on March 15. Consequently, he thinks it's time for non-Trump supporters to back Senator Cruz.
"What we saw on Saturday [March 5] was a couple of different factors that really changed that equation," he continued. "Number one, of course, we have a surprise win in Maine. We saw [Cruz] increase his strengths with other categories of voters in Kansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky – so that's number two.
"And number three, we also saw it's not so much the strength of Cruz – although that was surprising and pleasantly surprising if you're a Cruz fan – it was the weakness of Rubio in a lot of those categories where he was previously showing strength."
Wolf made his comments during an appearance Monday on the "Washington Watch" radio program, hosted by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
A path for Cruz?
Club for Growth Action believes Cruz's recent wins in Kansas and Maine, as well as a delegate tie in Louisiana, demonstrate that Republican voters don't want a big-government proponent like Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. Doug Sachtleben is a spokesman for the pro-growth, limited-government organization.
"I think we've seen some momentum shift," he tells OneNewsNow. "I think [Cruz] surprised ... most of the pundits, even though last week people were saying there really wasn't a path forward for the senator – and clearly there is.
"We've seen this time and time again in these primaries and caucuses: late deciders typically are moving away from Trump and they're looking for the most viable alternative."
Sachtleben says several big issues will be watched tonight.
"Is there a closing of the gap in Michigan which has been so wide? Does Mississippi at all replicate anything close to Louisiana, which is possible in terms of being a lot closer than maybe people would have anticipated a while ago? And does Senator Cruz win Idaho?"
All of those are "in reach," he says. "... We're hoping that that's the kind of momentum shift that we're actually seeing take place."
Club for Growth Action has purchased about $2 million in anti-Trump ads in Illinois, another of the states holding its primary on March 15.