March 16, 2016

Rubio's Departure Leaves Kasich as the Establishment Candidate

Governor John Kasich (cropped2)Well, I certainly was wrong about Marco Rubio! As the Republican establishment began to consolidate behind him as the anti-Trump candidate, I thought this would be enough to propel him forward to the nomination despite his lack of experience and one of the worst debate performances I had seen. After last night's embarrassment in his home state of Florida, Rubio has dropped out of the race. This leaves Gov. John Kasich and a contested convention as the establishment's only hope for stopping a Trump nomination. And as far as hopes go, this one appears to be a real long-shot.

What about Ted Cruz? Fortunately for all of us, it does not appear that the Republican establishment wants Cruz in the White House any more than they want Trump there. I suppose this could still change. Perhaps some will re-evaluate Cruz after Rubio's departure and decide that he's preferable to Trump after all.

Currently, it looks like Cruz has an uphill battle to present himself as a viable alternative to Trump. He has under performed with voters in many of the evangelical states where he was expected to do well, and the degree of support he has received from the establishment has been minimal so far. Based on the number of delegates he has won so far, he poses a more serious threat to Trump than Kasich does; however, it is unclear how he expands his appeal to challenge Trump.

Where does all of this leave us? It looks like we could very well end up with Trump as the Republican nominee. As much as many liberals dislike Trump, I would far prefer to see him receive the nomination than Cruz.

Can Trump be stopped? If all the hand-wringing we have been seeing from the pundit class is any indication of how establishment Republicans are feeling, they are genuinely worried about what Trump means not just for 2016 but for the future of their party. It is not clear what the party can do to deprive Trump of the nomination without alienating many voters. The notion that we are all pro-democracy until the voters decide to support someone we don't like is toxic to the very idea of democracy and seems like a risky path to travel.

I wonder if some in the GOP are wishing they had implemented a system of superdelegates like the Democrats did to make it easier for them to circumvent the will of the voters. Maybe we will see them do so going forward. I hope not. It seems like there are plenty of other reforms the party could make that would both strengthen them and make this sort of thing less likely to happen in the future.