Baer: A political Ides of March

THIS YEAR'S Ides of March, a.k.a. this Tuesday, can send this year's crazy politics toward some striking history, including in Pennsylvania.

It's that kind of season - for both parties.

Let's start with the madcap GOP.

If Donald Trump prevails in winner-take-all primaries in Florida and Ohio he'll likely have done to the Republican Party what the 44 B.C. Ides of March did to Julius Caesar.

And about the only thing at that point the party can say is, "Et tu, Christie?"

For if Trump takes a doubleheader, and especially if he also carries other states voting Tuesday where he holds leads (Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina), well, it's hard to see how he's not the nominee.

I suppose if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone . . . no, wait, he already said he could do that and not lose voters. And it seems, so far, he's right.

A year ago, heck, six months ago, who saw Trump toppling the whole GOP field? . . . even the field of 2016, such as it is and was.

So we're on the cusp of history-making Option One.

An often-crass candidate called con man, bully, misogynist, xenophobe; a trumpeter of his own horn (if you know what I mean) and now called an inciter of violence could be crowned king of a new GOP.

This puzzles no-Trump elitists. It angers and embarrasses many party leaders.

But it's no mystery. And it's more than that rabid support for Trump's anti-Washington signature stances on immigration and trade.

The fact is that multitudes of everyday folks, some who've never voted, are so sick of politicians ignoring their wishes, wants and economies that they're shouting at the powers that be some snarky version of this: "You finally made us willing to try anything other than what you offer!"

Trump is that anything. He could be their option by the end of Tuesday night.

Unless, that is, Ohio's John Kasich and Florida's Marco Rubio win their respective states.

If that happens, the stage is set for history-making Option Two: Pennsylvania's April 26 primary could actually have some meaning.

"I agree," says Stuart Rothenberg, of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, "if Kasich and Rubio win their home states, April becomes huge. The Northeast becomes very relevant as the GOP marches to a convention deadlock."

(Other Northeast states voting in April include New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.)

Kasich has a better shot of winning Ohio than Rubio has of winning Florida, but as long as one of them survives - and, remember, Ted Cruz is still around, second to Trump in delegates - an extended race is likely.

And Pennsylvania could have two primaries of consequence at the same time because the Democratic nomination isn't as settled as it seems.

Consider: Just days before the March 8 Michigan primary, polling put Hillary Clinton up 20-plus points. Bernie Sanders won.

Polling in states similar to Michigan and voting Tuesday (Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri) also had Clinton way up. But more recent polls have Sanders closing and narrowly leading in Illinois, where Hillary was born.

Strange times make for strange doings.

Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, tells me, "Frankly, given Clinton's Michigan disaster, and the likelihood that Sanders is going to win more states, odds are there will still be a Democratic battle come late April . . . Pennsylvania could have a double-barreled primary that everyone acknowledges and follows."

Fun times ahead in the Keystone State?

I'll tell you what's not fun. If conventional wisdom plays out and it's Clinton vs. Trump in the fall, our national parties will have given us a choice between a candidate (Trump) whom only 27 percent of voters trust and a candidate (Clinton) whom only 37 percent of voters trust.

That's according to last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll. And that suggests our politics have reached their Ides of March.