On March 15, we will see a host of large, winner-take-all states hold their GOP primaries. The winner of these primaries will significantly increase their delegate tally and make it increasingly likely that they become the Republican nominee for President in 2016. Currently, the delegate and poll leader is Donald Trump, a man so bereft of principle, couth, and policy acumen, that nearly 2/3 of Republicans believe him to be (correctly) unfit for the office.
Standing in his way is a fractured field of candidates of varying hues of conservatism (Cruz, Rubio, Kasich) that must unite now in order to thwart him. The irony is that the candidate most able to successfully defeat Trump is almost as loathed by the GOP establishment as Trump himself. While the establishment floats the idea of a brokered convention or a Hail Mary in the form of a Rubio win in Florida, precious time ticks away. While Rubio polls better in a general election against Hillary than Cruz, if he can’t get there, the point is moot. A brokered convention to force the issue is not only short-sighted, but in this emotionally charged environment, possibly dangerous. If it is perceived that GOP poobahs in smoke-filled rooms are denying the people their orange champion, there will be loss of faith in the electoral process, a fracturing of the GOP, and quite possibly, violence.
A defeat of Trump must occur in the open before Cleveland in order to preserve the legitimacy of the primary process. Ted Cruz is the only candidate that can accomplish this, but he can’t do it while the opposition is fractured. He has twice as many delegates has Rubio. Unfortunately, Rubio’s decisive win in Puerto Rico yesterday will feed his ego and the hopes of his backers that he can pull out a miracle. As we’ve seen though, hope is not a strategy. Rubio’s win in Puerto Rico was the equivalent of a garbage time touchdown in a blowout defeat.
As for Kasich, his quixotic quest for the White House is also harmful to the anti-Trump effort, which leads to some interesting questions. He has received the kid-glove treatment by Trump, most likely because he is not seen as a threat. However, he has siphoned off delegates from the viable candidates and will continue to do so as the contests move to a more moderate Northeast Corridor. I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Casino where Ace Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) chastises Don Ward, the idiot cowboy pit boss that allows a rigged slot machine to continue to pay out jackpots to the detriment of the casino.
“Listen, if you didn’t know you were being scammed, you’re too dumb to keep this job, if you did know, then you were in on it, either way you’re OUT!”
To me, Kasich is either too naive to realize he has no shot at the nomination OR he’s done a deal to stay in and split the field so as to secure a position in a Trump administration. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of Kasich lends some credence to this theory; he is Trump’s successor on the Apprentice after all and has ties to the mogul. It’s plausible that Kasich, wittingly or unwittingly, is being used.
Such political intrigue hearkens back to the Ides of March. March 15 is the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic, in 44 B.C. He was stabbed to death by a group of Senators that feared his lurch toward authoritarianism and that date corresponds as a turning point in Roman history marking the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. In my previous piece, I highlight that America is at a similar crossroads. Except here, we can vanquish the authoritarian politically and avert a potential disaster.
On March 15, if Trump is not facing Senator Cruz with the support of the remaining candidates and the GOP establishment, he will likely win Florida and be impossible to stop, save the convention scenario, which will not end well. It will either result in a Trump v Clinton general election which Trump WILL LOSE, or an establishment-picked candidate v Clinton that will likely lose because the record GOP turnout thus far will melt away in the face of convention shenanigans. It will have been a pyrrhic victory for the GOP establishment, as they would have burned the party down in order to rule over its ashes.
As for Mr. Trump, he may be boorish and arrogant, but like most con artists, he is not patently stupid. He realizes that you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to be smarter than your mark. Senator Rubio, Governor Kasich, for the good of our country and party, it’s time to set aside your egos and coalesce behind Senator Cruz in order to defeat Donald Trump and his Potemkin candidacy.