First they were 17. Now they are 4. The state of the republican race is more exciting and unpredictable than ever despite the winnowing of the field. Ben Carson being the latest candidate to drop out, but the battle between Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich is more intense than ever.
First of. The republican debate on Fox News was a bizarre phenomenon. Jokes about endowment. Yelling insults. Name calling. And John Kasich attempting to make political points. Basically Rubio and Cruz came armed to the teeth with attacks on Trump. Kasich came with his policies and refused to join in the mudslinging. It might all make sense in the way that this was one of the last occasions to put a stop to Donald Trumps march towards the nomination. If Trump beats Marco Rubio in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio and Ted Cruz in the upcoming southern states – its game over for the anti-trump movement.
Mitt Romney – Revenge of the Establishment
Mitt Romney chose to break all normal rules of the primary game by doing a speech slacking off Donald Trump. It is literally unheard of. The previous nominee trashing the frontrunner to be the next one. The Mitt Romney speech was a point by point indictment of Donald Trumps business history, his personality and temperament, his political positions and everything else about him.
The weirdness of it all is that Romney was chosen to do it. That he was chosen to do it at this point. And that it was deemed wise at all. First. With the speech barely over all the networks were playing Mitt Romney videos praising Donald Trump as a business genius from the 2012 election when Trump endorsed him. Couldnt the establishment have found another representative to do it? I guess George W. Bush said no at least. Second. Why do it now? It could have tilted the scales earlier on. Say before New Hampshire. Right now the effect seems dubious. And third, on the same point. Is it at all wise to tell 35% of your voter base that the guy they love is a fraudulent lunatic? Is it wise to tell voters wanting a non-establishment candidate as theyre tired of getting shafted by backroom Washington deals that you will do your best to ignore their vote and steal the nomination in a brokered convention? I think not.
A Brokered Republican Convention ?
Mitt Romney put words to the brokered convention idea and tactical voting. Basically. Instead of getting anyone to drop out. Help them win where they can. Then have them team up their delegates against Donald Trump at the convention if he hasnt reached an outright majority of 1237.
The suggestion was made outright. Vote John Kasich in Ohio. Vote Marco Rubio in Florida. Vote Ted Cruz where ever he is closest to beating Trump.
Is that wise or realistic ? Fact is it might be the only thing with any chance of working. From now till March 15 it is fully possible that Donald Trump settles the nomination to a degree where nothing but keeping him under 50% of the delegates. But it is far from a certain or safe thing to attempt. First of all it might not work at all. Marco Rubio is far from certain of winning Florida, Ohio isnt safely in John Kasich´ hands and several of the Southern states might well go Trump rather than Cruz. And even if the other candidates do hold out in these primaries there is a strong possibility of Trump winning anyway by sweeping most of the other states.
What is worse. If Donald Trump turns up at the convention with say 1100 delegates, everyone else being far behind, the Trump lead in the popular vote being massive … and the establishment then trying to figure a way of uniting everyone but Trump to hand the nomination to one of the other candidates – or even Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney or a similar candidate. It will be civil war. Nothing less.
The media narrative will focus on the illegitimate theft of the frontrunners nomination. The 30-40% of republican voters having supported Donald Trump will potentially not be recoverable for the general election. Trump himself might still run as third party, thus destroying the chances of any republican. Even if he doesnt he is unlikely to go home quietly, nicely or without a fierce fight.
Beyond that. Is it even possible to unite all other delegates against Trump? After the first round, wouldnt some of them go for Trump? Wouldnt especially Ted Cruz delegates be in a weird position with their candidate being unwanted by the establishment too – and prone to switching to Trump? Wouldnt a more politically savvy Donald Trump than we give him credit for actually hold most of the cards. Say, Donald Trump strikes a VP, secretary of state or supreme court deal with one or more the candidates. Or even simply with someone who could sway delegates from some of the other candidates in a second round of voting.
The State of The Republican Race
The state of the republican race ? It is chaos. By this time the state of the democratic race is largely settled. The republican race has descended into vulgarity, personal attacks and preparations for a civil war in the party. The upside for the republicans is that if they somehow settles it amicably in the end, they will have had plenty of airtime for their candidate.
Any winning nominee will have been vetted thoroughly. Being under intense scrutiny in a filthy battle for the nomination can hurt a candidate. But it can also let the air out of the balloon on bad track records. Which is the case here depends very much on who ends up chosen and how that comes about.
Would it be better if everyone united against Trump ? Well. If Rubio and Kasich dropped out and lined up behind Cruz he might indeed win a bit more delegates. But it is just as likely that anyone dropping out would bring Donald Trump closer to 50%. So far. The wisdom that those in the same lane benefit the most simply hasnt been true. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and others leaving did not elevate Marco Rubio much. It cant be ruled out that someone like Marco Rubio has a broad enough appeal that Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropping out would make him competitive. But first of all Ted Cruz has shown no sign of dropping out after his wins. Second, Rubio is already 200 delegates behind and polling poorly in his homestate of Florida.
It is all a catch 22 for republicans not wanting Donald Trump.