Two to tango: But which two?

David Rogers in this space yesterday calls for unity against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. His article, using an attractive dance floor metaphor, is a demonstration of why it can’t happen.

by Gordon Jones
by Gordon Jones

Dave’s prescription is for Marco Rubio (and John Kasich, and Ben Carson – who already has) to drop out, clearing the path for Ted Cruz. My immediate reaction was “why should Rubio drop out? Why not Cruz? (full disclosure: I have contributed to Rubio and signed on with Utahns for Rubio.)

The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average shows Cruz beating Hillary Clinton 49-48; but it also shows Rubio beating her 50-47.

Dave points out that if Super Tuesday had been Cruz against Trump, and Cruz had garnered the majority of the Rubio/Carson/Kasich vote, Cruz would have beaten the Trumper in seven states; but if Cruz were not in the race, and making the same assumption, Rubio would have beaten Trump in those same seven states.

So why should Rubio drop out and not Cruz?

Dave tells us that Rubio trails Trump “by double digits in his own home state” of Florida, and so he does, 45-25. Noting in passing that Trump has reached 45% in only one state so far, the real point is that giving Rubio the 16% Cruz is pulling, and Kasich’s 8% (it is hard to imagine a Kasich voter who would switch to Trump) puts Rubio at 49%, ahead of The Donald.

The strangest part of Dave’s analysis was that while Trump will offer a juicy target for the media in the general election, “Ted Cruz, on the other hand, does not leave the media a lot to hang their hat on.”

Really? Not the government shut-down, not the “Carson has dropped out” ploy in Iowa, not the faux Trey Gowdy endorsement? Any Republican is going to face a media barrage, and there is absolutely no reason to think that Cruz will be spared.

Looking at the question of electability, I noted the raw polling numbers above, but perhaps more telling is the fact that Cruz gets zero support from his colleagues in Washington, while Rubio has racked up numerous endorsements, with more coming every day. That may play for Cruz in an insurgent campaign for the nomination, but it bodes ill for a general.

And the electoral math makes it virtually impossible for any Republican to win without increased votes from Hispanics. I leave it to Dave to tell us whether Rubio or Cruz is more likely to increase the Republican share of the Hispanic electorate.

But, and a very large but it is, the fact is that at this point, the only way to stop Trump is a convention strategy, and on that point Dave’s prescription is exactly backwards. Kasich and Rubio should not drop out. Doing so would almost certainly guarantee Trump victories in Ohio and Florida, guaranteeing him enough delegates to secure the nomination before the Cleveland Convention.

As long as we are moving pieces around the chess board, here’s my end-game strategy.

The three remaining non-Trump candidates should unite to deny Trump victories in as many states as possible. They should campaign together as an anti-Trump team, but using the most-viable candidate in each state as the alternative. Using the two biggies to demonstrate, Cruz and Rubio should go to Ohio and campaign for Kasich; Kasich and Cruz should go to Florida and campaign for Rubio. Cruz has already won his home state, denying those delegates to Trump.

And so on, state by state, until the primary season is over. That strategy would produce an open convention, which is, at this point, the only real alternative to an outright Trump nomination and the destruction of the Republican Party. (I do not use the term “brokered convention” because, IMO, there are no brokers left. Would that there were. We wouldn’t then be suffering from Trumpism.)

Of course the Grand Old Party is pretty well destroyed by this time anyway, but as it dies, it could at least spare us a demagogic fascist as its last contribution to American politics.

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