Semi-super Saturday is over. It was a horrible night for Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz won Kansas and Maine by huge and unexpected margins. Donald Trump won Louisiana and Kentucky by a bit under expected margins.

Performance Expectations

In How the States Voted on Semi-Super Saturday, Nate Silver commented on the performance of the candidates vs. expectations.

Silver declared Ted Cruz the winner. Compared to expectation, he gave Trump a 2 out of 10,  Cruz a 9, Rubio a 1, and John Kasich a 4.

The problem with such analysis is that it is meaningless. It matters not how well one did vs. expectations. What matters is how well candidates did vs. what they needed to do.

Needs vs. Expectations

Trump had a poor showing, but let’s be serious.  Semi-super Saturday results were hardly a disaster for Trump.

Trump lost two caucuses. So what?

I strongly suspect the caucuses were semi-rigged with pressure applied on voters to rally behind the leading non-trump candidate. And that they did.

Only if this turns into a meaningful switch in voter attitudes will the caucus results matter. Had Trump lost a third state, the results would been worse for him and better for Cruz.

Rubio’s campaign is looking like burnt toast.

Silver recently had Trump at 50%, Rubio at 40%, and Cruz at 10%. I thought 40% was ridiculously high, and it was. It will now take a miracle for Rubio, barring a brokered convention or a rules change.

Let’s assign some semi-super Saturday numbers based on what the candidates needed to do.

Needs Basis

  • Cruz: 7
  • Trump: 4
  • Rubio: 1
  • Kasich: 1

Cruz did what he had to. But will it be enough? I strongly doubt that. And if that estimate is correct, then one could logically argue Trump scored a six.

Instead, I give the benefit of the doubt to Cruz for turning this into a two-person race.

Trump’s Bluff

The Hill reports Trump Calls on Rubio to Drop Out of the Race.

I saw Trump’s speech following his wins on Saturday. I doubt he is serious.

The Florida winner-take-all Florida primary is coming up on March 15. If Rubio drops out, Cruz would likely be the beneficiary. I think Trump wants Rubio in, at least until the Florida primary.

When the voting switches away from the Evangelical states, that’s when it may be to Trump’s advantage to tun this into a two-way race.

For now, Trump has a strong lead in Florida. If that lead holds, Cruz’s blistering beat-the-expectations “9” will easily be seen as meaningless, and Silver, once again will have been late to the analysis party.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock