I’ve already adjusted to the reality that Trump’s going to be the nominee. Now it’s a matter of adjusting to the reality that he’s probably going to be the nominee soon, without needing a long primary to put Cruz away. Ben Carson’s here to help.
I like the phrasing here: “A lot of people who continue to make donations” are telling him to stay in, whatever the polls might say, so whaddaya gonna do.
“I still have millions of supporters. … We have a lot of people who continue to make donations, and they’re saying, ‘Please, please, please, please don’t drop out. Please stay in, because your strong states are going to be coming up,’” Mr. Carson said in an interview that aired on Wednesday’s “Hannity” program on Fox News.
“And I believe that to be the case. I believe you will see a significant improvement right here in South Carolina, and the more times we have an opportunity to get in front of audiences and actually explain what our policies are, it makes a huge difference,” he said…
“They have their own personal reasons, but I was petitioned by the people — I’m a member of ‘we the people,’ ” he said. “And as long as I have the support of ‘we the people,’ I will continue to go, particularly with them saying please don’t drop out.”
In Iowa, his strongest state, he had the support of 9.3. percent of “we the people.” In New Hampshire, it was 2.3 percent. The three polls taken in South Carolina taken in January all put him at 8-9 percent, but those numbers will likely be affected by his dismal showings in IA and NH. Some chunk of his voters may have already split between Cruz, Trump, and Rubio, leaving him in the low single digits. That’s the best-case scenario if you’re anti-Trump, that Carson staying in at this point doesn’t do much of anything to hurt Cruz or Rubio since there are, essentially, no more Carson voters left. The worst-case scenario is that Carson’s still holding on doggedly to his 8-9 percent, most of them likely evangelicals, and that fighting on for several more weeks will make Cruz’s task of catching Trump that much harder. As Ross Douthat put it last night, Carson could end up playing the same role for Trump vis-a-vis Cruz that Fred Thompson played for McCain in 2008 vis-a-vis Mike Huckabee, scooping up just enough Christian voters to deny the evangelical candidate a victory over the not-at-all-evangelical one. Then again, to believe that you need to believe that Trump and Cruz are right now basically neck and neck in SC even though Trump has led consistently by double digits and is coming off a momentous win in New Hampshire. It may be the case (I’d even say it’s likely the case) that Trump’s lead over Cruz in the next polls will be large enough to make Carson’s voters irrelevant. We’ll see.
Besides, even if Carson changes his mind and pulls the plug today, Cruz will have fierce competition for Carson’s voters from Marco Rubio. Watch the second clip below to find Rubio repeating the same “dirty trick” charge against Cruz that Carson and Trump have been pushing lately. I thought Rubio’s new strategy in South Carolina would either be to go hard after Trump in the name of elevating himself as the strongest “Not Trump” in the race and/or to go hard after Jeb in hopes of eliminating Bush ASAP. Instead he’s pandering to Carson’s voters by coming after Cruz, which not only reduces Cruz’s chances of picking up the evangelicals he needs to win but may damage Cruz among other undecideds by painting him as a cheater. The beneficiary, of course, is Trump. Frankly, I’m having a hard time reconciling Rubio’s “kill Cruz” approach here with the endless complaints from Rubio fans about Jeb Bush’s “kill Rubio” strategy. What made Jeb’s strategy in New Hampshire so objectionable, I thought, was the fact that he was a longshot candidate bombing a guy with a much better chance to stop Trump from winning the nomination. I hate to break it to you but that’s essentially the position Marco’s in now in South Carolina — a longshot bombing a guy who not only has a much better chance to stop Trump but might now have the only chance. If the answer to that is “Marco’s comeback depends on weakening Cruz so that he can finish a strong third in South Carolina,” how come the same defense didn’t work for Jeb in NH? That was his plan all along with Rubio — beat up the guy in front of him, beat expectations, and then surf the “comeback” narrative.
The only real difference between what Jeb did to Rubio in New Hampshire and what Rubio’s doing to Cruz in South Carolina is that Rubio stands a much better chance head to head against Trump than Jeb does in a two-man race. If you’re all about beating Trump, obviously you should prefer Marco to Bush. That’s true, and I’ve made that point myself. If tearing down Cruz would push us into a Trump/Rubio race for the nomination, that’s worth doing if you’re an “Anybody But Trump” conservative. But I’m not so sure anymore that blowing up Cruz would give us that race. Rubio is damaged and Jeb is weak. Taking out Cruz, I think, is as likely to give us a runaway Trump juggernaut in the primaries as it is a Trump/Rubio or (God help us) Trump/Bush race. You want to roll the dice on that by having Marco bomb Cruz as a cheater? Exit quotation from Scott Lincicome: “The fate of The Republic could very well depend on underachieving politicians humbly and graciously accepting defeat. Hence, we’re doomed.”