It seems pretty obvious to me, at this point, that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee and that each of the other candidates is trying to position himself to be the man who leads the Republican Party out of the wilderness that will follow the defeat Mr Trump will suffer at the hands of Hillary Clinton.
I’ve been tweeting at various people about this. For example:
Ted Cruz hasn’t done significantly better so far than did Rick Santorum in 2012 or any better than Mike Huckabee in 2008, neither of whom emerged as the heir apparent for the next cycle. So his continued presence represents a hope that Republican voters will be slower to coalesce around Mr Trump than they were to coalesce around Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, George W Bush in 2000, Bob Dole in 1996, or George H. W. Bush in 1988, and that he will be able to win some of the states that won’t vote for him. That seems a forlorn hope, since Mr Cruz has drawn almost all of his support from evangelicals, and in no remaining state are there enough of them to put him over the top. His current standing would not seem likely to entrench Mr Cruz even as leader of the far-right counter-establishment, let alone as nominee-in-waiting for the 2020 election.
John Kasich also has to hope that states keep voting against Mr Trump, and if they do he can plausibly hope to be the beneficiary of that opposition. But, there is really no reason to suppose that Mr Trump’s support on the remaining primaries and caucuses will spike any less dramatically than did Mr Romney’s in 2012. If Mr Kasich’s bid ends with him having lost every state but the one where he is governor, he’ll be a punchline, then a trivia question, then a lecturer at the Kennedy School.
Many diehard anti-Trump Republicans have been touting House speaker Paul Ryan as a potential nominee if the Republican convention does not produce a first-ballot winner. Unlikely as that scenario is, a couple of weeks of discussion of it may be enough to qualify Mr Ryan as this cycle’s runner-up, and therefore as the de facto leader of the opposition to the Hillary Clinton administration.