Is Donald Trump Fading? The Midwest Is Forming A 'Never Trump' Firewall

Saturday marked yet another day of voting around the country, with caucuses in Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, and Nebraska, and primaries in the state of Louisiana. It figures to be a pivotal evening for both parties, although on the Republican side of things, the drama is running a little higher, and the uncertainties are a bit more pronounced. And judging by the early returns, things are looking unexpectedly sunny for a certain Texas senator ― could Donald Trump be fading against a Midwest firewall?

That's the possibility being floated by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, who's been providing live coverage of the presidential primary process on both sides, although the GOP contest is undeniably the more volatile and compelling of the two at the moment. Heading into Saturday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was up big in the polls, but in the great state of Kansas he appears to have suffered a devastating defeat. In fact, according to projections from several news outlets, Ted Cruz won Kansas by more than 20 points.

That's a horrifying enough outcome for the belligerent businessman on it's own, considering that Cruz has fired off a string of upset victories over the last several contests, and he's more or less firmly solidified himself as the only viable Trump alternative. But as Silver noted, it's also in keeping with a disturbing trend for Trump ― it's looking like he's slamming head-first into a wall of anti-Trump sentiment up and down the American Midwest.

Moreover, Trump is also trailing early in the Maine caucuses, placing a tremendous amount of import on him taking the Louisiana Republican primary. Trump has underperformed badly in caucus states so far, which could be a measure of his inferior campaign infrastructure ― the importance of the "ground game" is never bigger than in the caucuses, which boast lower turnout and demand a much higher level of voter energy, organization and engagement than a traditional ballot vote in a primary.

Also, Trump's schedule was clearly a little misguided heading into the polls closing ― skipping CPAC to campaign is one thing, but skipping it to head to Kansas just before getting dusted by double-digits? Not the best look.

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Even with the loss in Kansas and indications that he could struggle in Maine, as well, it's possible that Trump could still seize virtually permanent control of the GOP race despite this emerging Midwestern blockade. That's because he's still running out front in the two most crucial states on the schedule, Florida and Ohio, both of which award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis.

In other words, unless Cruz or Rubio can punish Trump in the deep South and Southeast the way (well, Cruz at least) has punished him across the Midwest, this startling result might not matter. They do have a little more time to play with, however ― the Florida primary is still more than a week away, on March 15th.