Never has the tag of ‘Teflon Don’ more suitably attached itself to a Donald than it has to the current holder of the title, Mr. Donald J. Trump. He has made too many highly controversial statements, from mocking a disabled journalist and prisoners of war to calling for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the USA, to be able to list them all in the space of this article. Yet none seem to have hurt him in the race for the Republican Party nomination. In fact, the more apparently outrageous the statement the more it has helped him, not just in the polls but in real votes in real elections as he has piled up the delegates.

The betting markets have reflected this dominance of ‘The Donald.’ Until now. By calling for women to be punished for seeking abortions he seems to have finally overstepped the mark. But why is this damaging when so many other equally controversial statements have served to help him? To understand this, it is important to understand just how ‘hot button’ an issue abortion is in the US. It is essentially the key driver of the huge social and political divisions in the nation. And on this issue the anti-abortion activists have steered a course which promotes their strongly held views while not alienating over half the country.

The consensus position of this ‘pro-life’ movement is that it is those who perform the abortions, not the women, who should be punished, with due force of the law. By breaking with this crafted consensus, he has finally indicated that he has no engagement with the base of his support and confirms a suspicion held by many potential supporters that he should be trusted as far as Hillary could throw him! He has since claimed that he ‘misspoke’ and meant that it is the doctors who should be punished, not the women, but this late correction has done nothing to stem the loss of support, at least as reflected in the betting markets.

So who has gained from the flight of money away from Trump? Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Paul Ryan, all of them. While Trump is still odds-on favourite to win the nomination, that status is looking increasingly shaky as we approach April 5th and the Wisconsin primary. In that race, it is Cruz who is a clear favourite. Indeed, he had already surged to favouritism before Trump’s ‘misspeak’. But Cruz’s problem is that he has essentially left it too late to secure enough delegates to enter the convention as the presumptive nominee. Kasich has left it too late, even mathematically speaking. And Ryan is not running, yet, and has no delegates to take to the convention.

So it is only Trump who can realistically win enough delegates to emerge victorious without contested ballots. But to do this he needs to steer a narrow path to earning the 1,237 delegates needed to prevent the convention being opened up to second, third and perhaps many more ballots. If at the end of this process, the eventual standard-bearer is not Donald J. Trump, he predicts riots in the streets. That aside, the alternative nominee would suffer from former die-hard Trump supporters, the so-called Trumpeters, simply staying at home in the general election, or even turning against them.

If it is Trump, on the other hand, he leads a party in open disarray. Either way, there is no good general election scenario for the Republican Party, only less bad ones. The Republicans do have a track record, though, of eventually picking the most electable of the candidates on offer, and this year in particular that may be their only hope.

Two men are so far relatively untarnished by the internecine warfare the party has suffered. These are Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, and John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio. I have already advised Speaker Ryan at 500/1, and that price is a dim and distant memory. So this time I shall cover that with a shout out for Governor Kasich at a very reasonable 22/1 to win the whole thing.

Follow Leighton on Twitter @leightonvw

John Kasich
US Presidential Election 2016
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