Supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have spent the past couple of months making the case that their preferred candidate is in the best position to dethrone Trump. Backers of the two candidates have made compelling arguments. And as I noted prior to the polls closing on Super Tuesday, many people made calculated voting decisions with the purpose of stopping Trump, depending on how the polling looked in their state, rather than necessarily picking their favorite candidate.
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As a Texan, I admit to doing this myself, reluctantly pulling the lever for Cruz despite months of criticizing him for his appeasement of Trump. Although Trump ultimately swept the Super Tuesday states of Georgia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia, while Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska went for Cruz and Minnesota went for Rubio, Trump hasnâ€™t yet earned enough delegates to be the Republican nominee outright. This has stoked talk of a possible brokered Republican National Convention, which would lead to a floor fight over which candidate is nominated.
As Jim Ellis of Ellis Insights explained:
â€śThough Trump has a clear lead in delegates, in no state has he obtained majority support, and in only three did his victories top 40 percent. Therefore, in all but Massachusetts and Alabama, more than 60 percent of voting Republicans have chosen another candidate. Conversely, of the committed delegates through the various state apportionment systems, Trump has secured 46.4 percent of the available delegates.
It appears the March 15 primary day will likely tell the tale. Should Trump win the key Winner-Take-All states of Florida (99 delegates) and Ohio (66 delegates), he will likely be unstoppable.
On the other hand, if his three major opponents strategically form an alliance and allow Rubio to challenge Trump virtually one-on-one in Florida, Kasich to have an unencumbered chance in Ohio, and Cruz the same in North Carolina (also on March 15), and they successfully top the leader in all of those places, the brokered convention becomes a clear reality.â€ť
This presents an interesting scenario to be sure â€“ but it doesnâ€™t seem as though Cruz would be willing to dial back in Florida. After all, Rubio campaigned in Cruzâ€™s home state of Texas â€“ and he still came in a distant third place with 17.7% of the vote to Cruzâ€™s 43.8% and Trumpâ€™s 26.7%. Nevertheless, the strategic alliance route to prevent a Trump nomination, if possible to obtain, seems like the best option at this point, especially because Rubio doesnâ€™t show any signs of heeding Cruzâ€™s call for him to drop out of the race.
The truth is, polling shows, as Iâ€™ve suspected, that many of Cruzâ€™s supporters would support Trump before Rubio. I assume this has to do with â€śanti-establishmentâ€ť sentiments and hardline immigration views. As Kate Grumke wrote at Rare, â€śWhen it comes to second choices, more Cruz supporters say they would switch to Trump over Rubio (30% to 21%), according to an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll. But Rubio supporters would actually go to Cruz over Trump (28% to 9%). And Rubio and Cruz are almost tied for second place in many of the upcoming states, which doesnâ€™t exactly pick a clear candidate to drop out.â€ť
I hate to admit it but, as I wrote after the Nevada caucus, it seems like a Trump nomination is highly likely at this point, no matter what the other candidates do. A brokered convention is hypothetically possible but Rubio will have to exceed his polling in Florida by miles. Currently, Real Clear Politics has Trump with 43.3% of the vote in Rubioâ€™s home state, who’s in second with 23.7%. Turns out that fellow Floridian Jeb Bushâ€™s departure didnâ€™t do too much for the junior senator.
If Trump is in fact the nominee, what this means for the future of the Republican Party is still anyoneâ€™s guess. As I wrote recently, I tend to believe that Trump wonâ€™t open the door to the kind of radical change that would blow up the GOP, as some libertarians and anti-establishment conservatives hope. More likely is that the Party will, with some exceptions, line up behind him and defend his big government agenda. I believe that Chris Christieâ€™s endorsement of Trump, and the way he stood behind him on Super Tuesday, is indicative of that.
Itâ€™s true that some high profile elected Republicans are coming out and saying they wonâ€™t support Trump if heâ€™s the nominee. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia are four such men. But will the rebels be enough to drive the Party? Both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the leaders of the GOP in congress, are currently struggling with this â€“ yet have both said theyâ€™d support the eventual nominee. Realistically, nobody knows what will come next.
Corie Whalen Stephens is a libertarian-conservative activist and writer based in Houston, Texas.
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