Harry Enten at FiveThirthEight.com has compared past performances of non-incumbent Republican presidential nominees and found that current front-runner Donald Trump is way behind his predecessors at this point in the primary season.
Trump’s 37 percent of the cumulative primary vote and 46 percent of delegates won so far may sound impressive, but his percentages make him the weakest Republican front-runner, at this point in the process, in decades.
Past GOP nominees such as George H.W. Bush in 1988, George W. Bush in 2000, Bob Dole in 1996 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 had bigger shares of the vote at this point, even if they started out slowly. You’ll also note, however, that the two most recent Republican nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, weren’t doing too much better than Trump is now.
McCain and Romney, though, were far ahead of Trump at this point in the delegate race. All the eventual nominees studied here won a majority of the delegates allotted1 by this date. Trump remains short of a majority.
Unless something radically changes, Trump will finish the primary season with the lowest percentage of the primary vote and the lowest share of delegates of any Republican presidential primary vote leader since caucuses and primaries became the main method for selecting nominees.