Donald Trump, on Super Tuesday, proved he has superpowers. But Superhero or Supervillain? Unless Marco Rubio rises to the occasion and endorses Ted Cruz for president, accepting a vice presidential role for himself, Donald Trump almost assuredly will be the GOP nominee. Meanwhile, the party and conservative elites are reacting in interesting ways to these interesting times.
There are three fascinating dramas simultaneously emerging. First, the Story of Trump. Second, Rubio’s Choice. Third, the narratives that the party (and interlocked conservative movement) thought leaders are devising. Follow along.
First, the Story of Trump. Donald Trump unequivocally demonstrated that he has superpowers. While superpowers are something we all crave in a president there’s a profound … ambiguity.
Donald Trump: Superhero? Or Supervillain?
A plurality of voters see him as a Superhero. That perspective rather brilliantly was summed up by one of the commenters to a recent column of mine, Atom Bruce McKellar:
If you’re an illegal immigrant, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in China, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in Mexico, Trump is a villain. If you’re an Islamic supremacist, Trump is a villain. If you’re a left-fascist with politically correct fantasy based narrative of the world, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in trying to buy influence with GOP candidates (or Democratic ones), Trump is a villain.
But to everyday, regular Americans , Donald Trump is King Kong stomping every dinosaur in sight as he takes back Skull Island for them.
Alternatively, not a few see Trump as a Supervillain.
I had thought the low point for Marco Rubio was his terrible judgment last week choosing to go down in the muck and trading schoolboy insults with Donald Trump. It was bad judgment, both moral and political.
Rubio forgot one of the most important lessons your mama teaches: Never mud wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty, but the pig likes it!
Politically, Rubio forgot that voters who don’t mind that kind of childish insult hurling vulgarity are already in Trump’s camp, and nobody is better at it than Donald Trump. The only thing worse than exchanging personal hygiene insults is losing the exchange.
But the absolutely most pathetic moment yet for the Rubio campaign came when he decided to go on Fox News as results came in and boast about his second place in Virginia and how well it bodes for his electoral future.
Honestly, I did feel sorry for him; he looked like he was exhausted, that he was lying, and that he knew it:
Here in Rubioland, a fabulous place where dreams come true, when asked about your bad night at the polls the first step is to launch into Washington jargon sprinkling the faery dust that helps the sophisticated analyst to understand tonight was really a kind of hopeful sign for the future.
“The analysis has to be recalibrated here. First of all this is the proportional stage of the campaign.”
Oh? Like it’s really going to be easier for Rubio to surge when we get to the winner-take-all stage with all the states he wins? Continue Reading
Eleven states voted and pledged delegates last night. While the mainstream media continues to peddle the false idea that Donald Trump dominated, we’re here to give you three key takeaways from the results:
1.) #NeverTrump worked.
It really did. Finally, the candidates took aim at Donald Trump, and he lost votes because of it. Trump only won 7 states last night — far fewer than the 9 or 10 he was expected to win. He repeatedly underperformed the polls, winning squeakers over Marco Rubio in Virginia and John Kasich in Vermont, losing Oklahoma (when polling had him ahead prior to Super Tuesday), and getting absolutely blown out in Texas.
Donald Trump looked beatable last night for the first time since the Iowa Caucus.
2.) Ted Cruz had a great night.
And Trump looked beatable because of Ted Cruz. Several campaigns have blamed a large field for not being able to beat Donald Trump so far, arguing that they’ll win once the field narrows. The Cruz campaign has made no excuses and has now won in four separate states, as well as coming close in several more.
Cruz is winning a ton of DELEGATES, and that’s what actually matters. “Winning” states is only important for media narratives. According to The New York Times, Trump won 241 delegates yesterday, and Cruz won 222. Cruz is within striking distance of Trump. This race is hardly the foregone conclusion that’s being portrayed in the media. Continue Reading
Conservatives seem to agree on the need to stop Donald Trump’s burgeoning candidacy, but they disagree on a strategy.
The first obstacle is how to somehow combine Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s 20-25 percent of the vote each into a 40-50 percent block to contend with Trump. Various conservatives have urged their allies to coalesce around Cruz, or alternatively, around Rubio.
Cruz advocates, such as The Federalist‘s D.C. McAllister, contend “Rubio Needs to Move Aside for Cruz, not Vice Versa.” McAllister cites Cruz’s expertise for picking Supreme Court justices and contends that many Cruz voters would drift to Trump and not to Rubio if Cruz left the race.
Advocates of backing Rubio include Leon Wolf of RedState. Though Wolf says, “I’ve been on the record for months saying that Ted Cruz would be a better President than Marco Rubio. I still believe that,” he concludes that Cruz simply has not expanded his voting base beyond evangelicals and very conservative voters as would be necessary to beat Trump in the post-Super-Tuesday states with thinner evangelical populations. Therefore, a poor March 1 primary showing by Cruz will likely end his chances.
Many conservatives have also openly wished that Cruz and Rubio would join forces in a combined ticket. Jonah Goldberg proposes that “A Rubio-Cruz Ticket Might Be the Only Way to Stop Trump.” David Harsanyi concurs. How would they decide who gets lead billing on such a ticket? Continue Reading
A new raft of polling shows Donald Trump consolidating and growing his lead, which is the kind of thing that happens when you win elections. The press is full of stories of how Texas is a must-win for Ted Cruz as the latest polls show him either in a dead heat with Trump at 32 percent apiece with Marco Rubio a distant third in the TEGNA/Survey USA poll, or up 12 points over Trump with Rubio a still more distant third in the Austin American-Statesman poll.
Meanwhile the latest Florida Quinnipiac poll shows Trump crushing Rubio, 44 percent to 28 percent.
If Cruz loses Texas, he has to get out. But how does that help stop Trump when the next week Trump rolls over Rubio?
Watch tonight’s debate. If any man but Trump is going to be the GOP nominee, a leader has to emerge tonight who shows he can take Trump down head-to-head.
If Rubio and/or Cruz beat up on each other for small tactical advantages in gaining second place, they are demonstrating they are not the leaders who are up to the task at hand.
Show you are a giant-killer. Go big or go home. It’s literally now or never.
Rich Danker has a great piece at The Daily Caller over why Trump outsmarted Cruz: Trump is the only one who has a campaign message that is about how America will be better off if you elect him. Continue Reading
In the first national poll to be released following last Saturday’s South Carolina GOP Primary, Rasmussen shows Donald Trump increasing his lead to 15 points over the rest of the field. Trump registers 36 percent support in the poll, leading Marco Rubio (21 percent) and Ted Cruz (17 percent) by double-digit margins. John Kasich came in fourth, with 12 percent.
With 12 states voting next week on Super Tuesday, these numbers bode well for Trump’s chances, though tonight’s Nevada caucuses and Thursday’s CNN debate could alter the outlook between now and then. However, as Rasmussen points out, more and more Republican voters seem to be accepting the fact that Trump is now the clear favorite:
Rasmussen Reports’ latest weekly Trump Change survey, released the day before Saturday’s South Carolina primary, found that 71% of Republicans believe Trump is likely to win the GOP nomination, with 36% who say it is Very Likely.
More from Rasmussen:
Trump leads Rubio 33% to 21% among likely primary voters who identify as Republicans. Among independents who say they plan to vote in the GOP primary in their state, Trump posts a 44% to 19% lead over Rubio.
As Shane wrote yesterday, Trump has a clear advantage in open primary states, where he is able to profit from his huge lead among independents. Both his state wins so far, New Hampshire and South Carolina, were open primaries. And although tonight’s contest in Nevada is a closed caucus, nine of the twelve Super Tuesday states allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primaries, meaning Trump should not be at too much of a disadvantage in most of these states. Continue Reading
I shared some post-South Carolina Primary thoughts on Facebook Saturday night, but I wanted to expand on that here. This is a three-way race between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Currently Donald Trump is in the driver’s seat.
Finally after South Carolina pollsters can finally pat themselves on the back because the polling finally reflected the primary results.
The RealClearPolitics average of South Carolina polls showed:
- Donald Trump – 31.8%
- Marco Rubio – 18.8%
- Ted Cruz – 18.5%
- Jeb Bush – 10.7%
- John Kasich – 9.0%
- Ben Carson – 6.8%
With the South Carolina Primary results, the order was right and the close race for second was correct. Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Carson all slightly out-performed their polling. Bush and Kasich under-performed. The final results:
- Donald Trump – 32.5%
- Marco Rubio – 22.5%
- Ted Cruz – 22.3%
- Jeb Bush – 7.8%
- John Kasich – 7.6%
- Ben Carson – 6.8%
You don’t get it much closer than that.
Some thoughts on the primary:
- Those who claim that Ted Cruz underperformed haven’t been paying attention to polling. Polling consistently had Trump leading this race by a wide margin. The highest that Cruz ever polled was at 23 percent, and the most recent polling had him under 20 percent, so I’m not sure how one can say he underperformed. Did they hope to do better here? Sure, but this is hardly a surprise.
- Rubio to his credit recovered from the disappointment in New Hampshire.
So South Carolina is where the titans clash: where Donald Trump (clearly) is going to try to knock Ted Cruz out of the race, and where Cruz urgently needs to show he can go toe-to-toe with The Donald in the South before the big SEC primary on March 1.
Trump’s decision to release his nasty attack ad on Cruz the night of his New Hampshire victory shows he understands the campaign dynamic: Kasich will struggle for a 0-2-3 strategy and head for the big Southern vote with little to show for it. Rubio and Bush will be forced to attack each other to try to win the establishment lane.
Cruz was ready with an attack ad of his own, trying to hit the same lighthearted note he has in his past responses to Trump’s attacks. I do not think the ad is very effective — don’t put kids in front to attack a Trump. But it demonstrates Cruz understands the central problem with attacking Donald Trump: the voters who don’t mind mean candidates are already in Trump’s camp, so the challenge is how not to seem weak while also not sounding mean in taking on the Trump. It’s a conundrum.
Marco Rubio lost his chance to be the Great Unifier in one moment on stage with Chris Christie. It was not the content of Rubio’s response that was the problem, but the fact he retreated to canned phrases instead of seizing the opportunity to take it to Christie on the governor’s actual record in New Jersey. Continue Reading
Donald Trump is well on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination. This owes substantially to the party’s bias for “winner-take-all” and “winner-take-all-lite” primaries.
Trump will come out of the four earliest beauty contests states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) with a solid lead in delegates, assuming he wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as now looks likely. South Carolina is the big prize, and it is a winner-take-all state, notwithstanding the RNC rule that there be no winner-take-all primaries before March 15.
Ted Cruz leads in Iowa, and a win there will give him momentum enough to insure he is above the 10 percent New Hampshire threshold for delegates. But the small number of New Hampshire delegates (23) could get divided 5 ways. The Nevada caucuses do not have a threshold, and so will divide their delegates between multiple candidates. Trump could end February with a 4-1 lead in delegates over his nearest competitor — which looks at this point to be Cruz.
Then comes the SEC primary, in which five states (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont) have a 20 percent popular vote threshold to win any delegates. Who’s currently competitive to clear the 20 percent threshold: Trump and Cruz. Minor candidates get bupkis (a candidate who gets 9 percent in each of the SEC states will get roughly 15 delegates, or 2 percent of the delegates awarded). Cruz cleans up in Texas, and we’ll see how well Trump runs in the Southern States, although if South Carolina is any indication, he’ll do just fine in the Bible belt. Continue Reading