The GOP establishment seems convinced that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could stop the insurgent presidential front-runner Donald Trump, if only Ohio Gov. John Kasich would drop out and simplify the field. But polling suggests that even if Kasich were to suspend his campaign, Cruz's support wouldn't grow enough to stop Trump.
According to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, Trump would defeat Cruz by a 9-point margin if the race were narrowed down to just the two of them. Forty-six percent of registered Republican voters would vote for Trump, the poll says, and 37 percent would vote for Cruz.
Kasich doesn't fare any better against Trump in a two-man scenario. Were Trump and Kasich to face off directly, 56 percent of GOP voters would vote for the real estate mogul and just 25 percent would vote for Kasich.
Probably the biggest obstacle to defeating Trump is his substantial delegate advantage. Trump currently leads the Republican field with 739 delegates to Cruz's 465. In other words, Trump is 59 percent on his way to a nomination and Cruz is 38 percent of the way there.
The current trajectory suggests it's unlikely that any of the GOP candidates can win the 1,237 delegates it would take to capture the nomination by the time of the Republican National Convention in July.
At this point, Trump is the only candidate who has a slim chance. And with several winner-take-all states ahead, Cruz can forget about winning the nomination unless he starts outperforming Trump. The only hope for Cruz now, and for the GOP establishment, is to pose enough of a challenge to Trump to ensure the race enters a contested convention.
It's even been suggested that it's better for the #StopTrump movement if Kasich stays in the race. By remaining viable, Kasich could be gathering up delegates that Cruz would otherwise lose to Trump.
If the race does enter a contested convention, 6 in 10 Republicans say the candidate with the most delegates (likely to be Trump) should be nominated, according to a recent CNN poll.
Even if Trump wins the nomination, the Quinnipiac poll suggests that he would lose in a general election (although it's still too early to give much credence to general election polls). In fact, the only candidate who has broad enough support to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a general election is the GOP's lowest-polling candidate -- Kasich.
HuffPost pollster's average of polls also shows Kasich as the only Republican candidate capable of defeating Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, in the general election. Both Cruz and Trump fall short. Unfortunately for Republicans, Kasich is the least likely candidate at this point to emerge as the nominee.