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Whistling Past The Graveyard

I can’t understand the rationale — aside from wish fulfillment — for so many pundit types writing Donald Trump off and extolling Marco Rubio after the Iowa result.

Yes, it was a disappointing showing for Trump, considering the high expectations he had raised prior to the caucus. Still, he came in second place in a state where he had no ground game (versus Ted Cruz, who had an amazing one), a state where ground game is of paramount importance. Rubio’s third place showing was impressive, and launched him into position to be the consensus Establishment candidate that the party and movement elites have been hoping for.

But consider that Trump is massively ahead in New Hampshire — 21 points ahead of his nearest rival, Cruz (who is barely ahead of Rubio and Kasich). Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire, which votes Tuesday, is a primary state, which is not going to hurt Trump as much as the caucus system did. There hasn’t been a South Carolina poll since the Iowa result, but the last one had Trump up by over 16 points.  South Carolina votes February 20, and Nevada, where Trump is also far ahead, caucuses on February 23.

After that is Super Tuesday, March 1, when a lot of Southern states vote. Trump is running strong in the South now.

Look, a lot can change in the next three weeks. But if Trump wins decisively in NH, and then in SC, he will have tremendous momentum going into Super Tuesday. If he loses SC, Trump will look a lot more vulnerable than he does post-Iowa. Still, I understand GOP regulars being relieved that Rubio has a shot, but do they really think that all the things that made grassroots conservatives embrace Donald Trump are going to evaporate overnight?

As for Ted Cruz, he can count on winning his home state of Texas on Super Tuesday, which is huge. But remember, conservative Evangelicals are his base, and he’s going to have to show that he can appeal beyond them. Iowa Republicans are heavily Evangelical (as 2008 Iowa winner Mike Huckabee and 2012 Iowa winner Rick Santorum can testify), but that’s less true in most other places.

I still find it hard to imagine Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, but I’ve been wrong about him for a long time. This pundit rush-to-Rubio seems awfully premature, is what I’m saying.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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