“Party Rules to Streamline Race May Backfire for G.O.P.” – New York Times:
In the starkest sign of how unsettled the situation is, what once seemed unthinkable — that Mr. Trump could win the Republican nomination — is being treated by many within the Republican establishment as a serious possibility. And one reason his candidacy seems strong is a change by the party in hopes of ending the process earlier: making it possible for states to hold contests in which the winner receives all the delegates, rather than a share based on the vote, starting March 15, two weeks earlier than in the last cycle. Ten states have said they will do so.
If Mr. Trump draws one-third of the Republican primary vote, as recent polls suggest he will, that could be enough to win in a crowded field. […] With 15 candidates in the field, and Mr. Trump at the center of the action, the debates have become ratings bonanzas for the networks and drawn record-setting viewership. And many states, eager to play a more influential role, seized the opportunity to schedule their nominating contests earlier. Eight states in the conservative-dominated South, where insurgent candidates like Mr. Trump could do well, have created a Super Tuesday on March 1, when delegates must still be awarded proportionally.
After March 15, he could begin amassing all the delegates in a given state even if he carried it with only a third of the vote. And the later it gets, the harder it becomes for a lead in delegates to be overcome, with fewer state contests remaining in which trailing candidates can attempt comebacks.
This is why it’s always important to know and understand the rules for how delegates will be awarded. Steve Schmidt acknowledges that in the article:
“There is a bubble of delusion among Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., with regard to their parties’ respective nominating processes,” Mr. Schmidt said. “There is no magic date upon which the air will come out of the Donald Trump balloon. The notion that Donald Trump cannot be the Republican nominee is completely and totally wrong.”
It’s worth recalling that one of the collapse factors during the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign was due to her campaign advisers mistakenly believing delegates would be awarded differently, in her favor, early in the cycle, even if she stumbled in one or two of the early states. (Not that they expected that either, which may be why they didn’t study the rules carefully…)