It seems like the new pastime among some Republicans is to debate the different ways in which Donald Trump could lose the party’s presidential nomination.
One of those ways is a contested Republican convention, but that is unlikely. In fact, nearly every discussed scenario that denies Trump the nomination is unlikely at this point. As the Republican contest heads to Nevada, the best bet is that he will be the nominee.
With all due respect to Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired doctor Ben Carson, the Republican race is now a three-person contest. Trump has two rivals standing in his way: US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
But figuring out the winner has more to do with math than ideology. The most pivotal day in the GOP contest is not Super Tuesday on March 1, when nearly a dozen states will have nominating contests for Republicans. Instead it’s the second Super Tuesday, March 15, when several states have winner-take-all contests for party delegates.
While a quarter of all the Republican delegates are up for grabs on the March 1, they are distributed proportionally. This means that even though the biggest delegate prize is Texas (Cruz’s home state), he will only get a share of Texas delegates even if he wins the primary there.
While the Cruz campaign has been pointing to the southern states on March 1 as their biggest day, it is entirely possible that he will still be trailing in the delegate count to Trump on March 2. Then what?
Rubio argues he will make his stand on March 15, the second Super Tuesday. His home state, Florida, is among the that day’s contests, along with Ohio, in which the winner takes all of the delegates.
The problem for Rubio is money. Cruz had $13 million in the bank at the end of January, compared to just $5 million for Rubio. While much has happened in the race during February, the nomination battle is about to get much more expensive with more states on the map.
What would help Rubio raise money? A win in some key state. He has not done this yet, and there isn’t a single state on the upcoming calendar with polls that show him ahead of the pack.
Trump has money, he has the delegate lead, and he is about to win three of the first four nominating states -- something that previous nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney were unable to do.
Republicans can stop Trump, but it is becoming less likely every day.James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign at www.bostonglobe.com/groundgame.