Donald Trump won the Kentucky GOP Caucus last night, the one put together for Rand Paul (no longer in the race) at taxpayer expense, and the entire process was a gigantic mess in more ways that one.
About 1.28 million Republicans in the state were eligible to vote on a damp, cool Saturday in the Bluegrass State from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time. In Kentucky’s 2012 GOP presidential primary, about 15.7 percent of the party’s voters went to the polls.
The Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement Saturday afternoon declaring the caucus a success, but only two-thirds of the vote had been reported to the public more than 6 hours after polls closed.
Trump and Cruz split the vote in the state’s most populous counties, with Trump claiming wins in Jefferson and Pulaski and Cruz taking Fayette, Kenton and Warren. In all, Trump won 78 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
Leading up to the state caucus, some conservative elites in the state were working to stop Trump’s national momentum.
Several, including former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup of Louisville, state House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown, and state Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown, publicly backed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and spoke of stopping Trump. Rubio, however, trailed Trump and Cruz badly.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville never said who would get his vote Saturday but the New York Times recently reported that McConnell told vulnerable U.S. senators up for election this year that they could run ads against Trump even if he wins the nomination.
FoxNews.com reported Saturday that a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green said the senator will not say for whom he has cast a ballot and noted he has yet to endorse a candidate since dropping out after the Iowa GOP Caucus in early February. Warren County, where Paul lives, chose Cruz over Trump by a 6.53-point margin.
Rubio came in a distant third, with John Kasich just behind. All four will receive delegates for the convention. However, Cruz won Kansas and Maine. It's now looking like a Cruz vs. Trump fight to the finish for the GOP, the two least-electable Republicans in the general, and I couldn't be happier. Marco Rubio has fallen to also-ran.
Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi vote on Tuesday, Wyoming voets on Saturday, and then on March 15 the big, big battle: Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. With Cruz now holding his own against The Donald at least for the moment, this could turn into a real fight soon.
But Cruz and Trump are the most hated by the GOP establishment, and at least in Kentucky, and in three other states, Republican voters simply don't give a damn about Rubio or Kasich anymore to stop Trump. The pressure on the two of them to drop out will be massive, but Rubio's home state is Florida and Kasich's is Ohio, so they will still be in through the 15th.
After that is anyone's guess.