Trump won the Nevada caucuses handily. He got 46% of the vote with Rubio and Cruz running far behind with 24% and 21%. Carson and Kasich had 5% and 4%. And that’s all there is in the field. Now I know the conventional wisdom. Carson will drop out and give his votes to Cruz and Kasich will drop out and give his votes to Rubio. I don’t think that’s so clear, but even if true, all that would have done would have made Rubio and Cruz closer to each other and still left them far behind Trump in the fight to be the Republican presidential nominee.
The last great hope of the Republican establishment is that Trump has a ceiling and what needs to happen is for this race to get down to a one on one fight between Trump and literally anyone else and then we will see Trump’s downfall. But after one bit and another of establishment conventional wisdom has shown to be wrong, why do we believe this? Anyway, given that Rubio and Cruz seem to be running neck and neck, why would one of them drop out? But then there is the very important question of who drops out in the bid to be the presidential nominee.
The establishment is not clear about who they hate more: Trump or Cruz. So they are hoping that Cruz will drop out. According to what is looking more and more like simple wishful thinking, the presidential nominee will then be Rubio. But I see no reason why Cruz would drop out given that he has scads of money and and army of very committed volunteers. But if he drops out, his voters are not going to jump on the Good Ship Rubio. The very best the establishment could hope for would be that Rubio would get half of Cruz’s votes. Let’s look at that for a moment.
Forget Nevada, where Trump likely did better than he normally would. But if we did take it as typical, the Republican primary is over and Trump is the Republican presidential nominee. But look back to South Carolina, which gives Rubio a much better chance. Trump got 32.5% of the vote, and Rubio got 22.5%. Cruz got 22.3% of the vote. If Trump and Rubio split that, Trump would have 43.6% and Rubio would have 33.6. Even if you gave Rubio all of Bush’s and Kashic’s votes and gave Trump Carson’s vote, Trump would squeeze out a victory with 50.8% of the vote.
And I think I’m being way too generous to Rubio. I doubt there is much of an appetite on the part of Cruz voters for Rubio. If Hillary Clinton has a problem in terms of seeming authentic, Rubio has the problem in spades. But he’s coming at it from a position of weakness. That’s why I think it is much more likely that the Republican establishment would say that they can better live with a Cruz candidacy than a Trump one, and force Rubio out of the race. That, at least, seems like a plausible way to defeat Trump. Because we all know that Rubio will do whatever the establishment tells him to.
But this is what you get when a party has cobbled a coalition based upon lies. Trump has been brilliant in focusing in on what most motivates Republican voters: fear and anger. The establishment claims that they don’t like Trump because he’s a loose cannon. They like Rubio because they know that he will do as he is told. Well, that’s clear enough to me. And it’s clear enough to Republican voters. And that doesn’t make him very appealing as the party’s presidential nominee.
Each GOP Presidential Nominee Would Be Bad
There is something deeper, however. I wrote about this months ago: the real concern is that if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, he won’t win in the general election. The main thing that the Republican establishment cares about is winning. But at this point, Donald Trump seems to be their best chance of winning. I can at least see him making a run for it against Clinton. Rubio is a joke. Imagine that there is a terrorist attack some time before the election, are the voters going to look to Rubio and think, “He’ll protect us!” The very idea is laughable. Rubio is not substantially more impressive as a candidate than Sarah Palin.
I hope that the Republican establishment gets what it wants and Marco Rubio is their presidential nominee. I will look forward to watching Clinton eating him alive and then cleaning her teeth with one of his smaller rib bones. But it looks like it is going to be Trump. Regardless, the Republicans are screwed. They can get a presidential candidate that they and most other people hate (Cruz), a candidate who is unpredictable (Trump), or their own inside man with all the gravitas of Mort in Madagascar.