FiveThirtyEight: Trump is the WEAKEST GOP front-runner in the modern era

FiveThirtyEight has done some analysis on the GOP front-runners at this point in time in their primary fights and has determined that Trump is actually the weakest of the bunch:

Despite getting drubbed in Wisconsin this week, Donald Trump has won more votes than any other Republican candidate this year. So, he’s doing OK, right? Well, for all the talk that unbound delegates and quirky convention rules could prevent Trump from winning the GOP nomination, it’s easy to forget that Republican voters also play a part. Trump’s 37 percent of the cumulative primary vote and 46 percent of delegates won so far may sound impressive, but his percentages make him the weakest Republican front-runner, at this point in the process, in decades.

Of course, a front-runner is still a front-runner, but by historical standards Trump is limping along — hence the increased chances of a contested convention.

This is the seventh Republican primary in the modern era (beginning in 1972) without an incumbent president in the race; here’s the cumulative vote percentage that each eventual nominee received over the course of the primary season in those seven campaigns:


Past GOP nominees such as George H.W. Bush in 1988, George W. Bush in 2000, Bob Dole in 1996 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 had bigger shares of the vote at this point, even if they started out slowly. You’ll also note, however, that the two most recent Republican nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, weren’t doing too much better than Trump is now.

McCain and Romney, though, were far ahead of Trump at this point in the delegate race. All the eventual nominees studied here won a majority of the delegates allotted1 by this date. Trump remains short of a majority.


I believe this is a testament to two things in particular: How nasty Trump has been in this race and how tough a candidate Cruz has been during this process. Cruz is clearly playing to win while Trump is hoping to coast into the nomination. And the more this process plays out, the nastier Trump gets. And the nastier he gets, the more votes he’ll probably lose in states that care about character.

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