This same poll has Hillary up by five points over Bernie Sanders, with Martin O’Malley in double digits at 10 percent. No other national poll taken over the last month has O’Malley higher than seven percent or Hillary’s lead over Sanders lower than 15 points.
But since it’s Thanksgiving eve and most of us are already drinking, let’s not strain too hard pondering plausibility. Let’s just think about President Trump.
Rubio and Cruz both believe that if they can somehow end up as the last man standing against Trump, it’s a cinch they’ll be the nominee. If you believe these numbers, they’re kidding themselves. As for what happens if Trump falters and we end up with a Rubio/Cruz finale, Cruz wins that one-on-one 55/45 according to YouGov. That also strikes me as implausible — the margin, not the baseline result — but it’s more plausible than the idea that Trump’s going to crush Ted Cruz by 14 points once Cruz has united social conservatives, most tea partiers, and most of the “Anyone But Trump!” vote among the wider party behind him. Then again, the idea of the race settling into a two-man battle for the nomination may itself be implausible. If you subscribe to the “lanes” theory of the primary, with Rubio in the “establishment” lane, Cruz in the “conservative” lane, and Trump in the “populist outsider” lane, we may be destined for a bunch of primary results in which each of them effectively has a floor of 25 percent or so and a ceiling of 40 percent. That means delegates will be fairly evenly split during the first six weeks of the race, before the winner-take-all states start voting, which in turn means we may end up with none of the three able to clinch a majority before the convention. How does a brokered convention between Rubio and Cruz with Trump as a wild card sound next year? Free advice: Save some of your holiday liquor for next summer.
Here’s Rubio at his most Rubio-esque, insisting that the U.S. must defend Turkey against any Russian escalation after yesterday’s jet shootdown. On the one hand, that’s basic hawkish common sense: If your big problem with Obama is that he’s easily pushed around by adversaries like Putin and unreliable when U.S. allies need American help, then obviously some muscle-flexing is in order when NATO’s credibility is on the line. The alternative, abandoning Turkey and effectively collapsing NATO, would be the final proof that the United States is a fair-weather friend, even when there’s a binding treaty obligation at stake. On the other hand, if you think Americans are wary of major foreign interventions now, good luck explaining to them that we need to risk World War III with a nuclear superpower in order to defend a Muslim country that’s been trending for years towards Islamist dictatorship. And not just any nuclear superpower but one that’s currently bombing ISIS positions in Syria (along with some U.S.-allied rebels too, mind you). The worst possible domestic pitch for maintaining NATO, even in an era of Russian revanchism, is letting it be used as a lever for defending Islamists. Maybe Rubio’s right that Putin would glean from U.S. inaction that he can mess with any NATO country going forward — or maybe he would realize that the urgency of defending Turkey from Russia and the urgency of defending, say, Poland from Russia are different in western eyes. It’s the end of NATO either way, but whether Rubio’s right that weakness in this particular case would invite much more Russian aggression is an open question.