I previously predicted that nobody will drop out after South Carolina, that it’s going to be everyone in the pool through the March 1 “SEC Primary.”
If you look at the latest S.C. polling, it makes sense that everyone should let their chips ride until the massive 661 delegate dump on March 1. Currently, Trump has 17 delegates; Cruz 11, Rubio 10, Kasich 5, Bush 4, and Carson 3. South Carolina awards delegates in a modified winner-take-all. It’s likely that Trump will take the 29 statewide and RNC delegates along with a large chunk of the county delegates, unless there’s a surprise.
It’s extremely likely that nobody will take any delegates other than Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. All the candidates have known this since New Hampshire–it’s not news. Nevada is not much of a player with 30 delegates (which should mostly go to Trump).
Therefore, there are only two reasons to drop out after South Carolina: (1) out of cash, and (2) sheer futility. If sheer futility mattered, Bush and Kasich would drop out today. Carson is done, and his cash may not last until March 1. It’s irrelevant either way for Carson.
But why would Bush stay in? For one thing, I think he wants a share of the March 1 delegates. Much hay has been made about Bush and Right to Rise cancelling $3 million in March 1 media buys, and given the spectacular fail of Bush’s New Hampshire spending, that only makes sense. But Bush did the same thing in Iowa a month before the caucuses–he also pulled $2 million out of South Carolina.
Bush may be totally lost in a hall of mirrors, or he may be coming to realize that, as they say in economics, his supporters are price inelastic. That means no matter how much advertising he buys, his supporter base won’t grow (or shrink much). Right to Rise has been targeting Rubio, trying to clear the “establishment lane” (I hate that term) for Bush. And Bush is the second choice of 10 percent of South Carolina voters, according to the latest Bloomberg poll.
Bush will stay in because he wants to be the “waiting in the wings” voice of reason and authority. He’s waiting to see exactly how nasty, divisive and self-destructive the three-way cockfight between Trump, Cruz and Rubio will get, and then he’s hoping to walk on as the adult in the room. That could be a valid strategy.
But it’s not.
It’s what we in the business world call a domino plan: Everything has to fall exactly right for it to work. Kasich, who’s ahead of Bush in national polls as first- and second-choice, would have to drop out before March 1 (which I don’t think will happen). Then either Trump, Cruz or Rubio will have to make a major gaffe. Trump could walk onto the Las Vegas Strip wearing nothing but a boa feather and brandishing an AK-47 and it wouldn’t be a gaffe for his supporters. Cruz is fairly gaffe-resistant, although Trump and Rubio have resorted to innuendo. Bush is hoping for Rubio to somehow self-immolate, which has not happened.
I would look to the night of March 1 for Bush to read his (already written?) concession speech, releasing his guilt- and shame-ridden donors from their secret oaths and vows.