Matt Lewis has an interesting suggestion on how the GOP might be able to keep Donald Trump from getting the nomination: have Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz team up. He opines at The Telegraph there needs to be a coalition of Republicans willing to take down Trump and that means getting Rubio and Cruz to work together because the alternative could mean doom (emphasis mine).
The non-Trump candidates should find a way to hash out their differences and cut a deal today. Maybe that involves Mr Rubio agreeing to be Mr Cruz’s running mate – or vice, versa. Or maybe whoever has the most delegates after South Carolina stays in the race. But something has to be done.
This is an absolutely unprecedented suggestion, which shows just how desperate the situation may be for those who don’t want Trump as the GOP nominee. The problem is naming a ticket before all the votes are counted is completely unheard of in modern day politics. It’s certainly not unusual for primary opponents to eventually mend fences and run together, but this normally happens closer to the respective party’s convention. Ronald Reagan didn’t name George H.W. Bush as his vice presidential pick until the last day of the 1980 GOP convention. Barack Obama didn’t name Joe Biden his running mate until two days before August 2008 Democratic convention started. So a Cruz/Rubio or Rubio/Cruz ticket announcement wouldn’t happen until then, and not before the votes were sealed up.
There’s also the question of ego and the heated race between Cruz and Rubio. The Texas Tribune is reporting Rubio claims (without proof) Cruz is doing robocalls telling voters the Florida senator is out of the race. So it’s pretty clear the campaigns are at each others throats in hopes of becoming “the one candidate” which may knock Trump out of the race. Even Lewis admits it’s unlikely Cruz and Rubio will become allies before the primaries are done.
Here, it helps to consider the game theory example called “prisoner’s dilemma.” If you’re unfamiliar, it’s an example that demonstrates why two purely rational actors might not co-operate with one another.
Each Republican candidate believes he is best served by staying in the race – that if he can end up being the last man standing against Mr Trump, that he can win. But the truth is that none of them can win without co-operating. But who should sacrifice himself for the good of the cause? The other guy!
Lewis probably remembers the 2012 presidential race where both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were publicly telling the other to “get out,” depending on the poll and the primary. Most candidates aren’t going to drop out until they believe all hope (or money) is lost (Jeb Bush appears to be the exception) so there’s no reason for Cruz or Rubio to drop out just yet. It’s more than likely they’ll wait until Super Tuesday to decide whether they’ll stay in or not. Even then it’s no guarantee, especially if a brokered convention looks likely to happen which means both Cruz and Rubio will be trying to get as many allies as possible to be “the one”.
It’s also more than likely illegal for a ticket deal to be worked out before the primaries are over based on how election law has changed over the last 50 years. The Democrats were able to change state laws after the 1968 convention, with the fallout of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. That commission eventually led to the current primary system we all “love and enjoy” today. So while Lewis’ suggestion is an interesting one, it might not happen because Trump will obviously claim a conspiracy against him and sue. If he’s able to prove a backdoor deal was made before the primaries were over, then the GOP is screwed (again). There’s no doubt Trump would love to bring back the term “corrupt bargain,” especially if he decides to go all Andrew Jackson and compare a Cruz/Rubio detante to a conspiracy akin to John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay teaming up in 1824. That could end up painting Trump in a sympathetic light, and there’s no doubt some Cruz supporters would move into Trump’s camp. So that might convince Cruz and Rubio to not make an endorsement until the nominee is obvious (or whether a GOP candidate decides to run as an Independent).
But there’s another reason why a Cruz/Rubio or Rubio/Cruz team up may not happen: their supporters. I’m sure there are plenty of voters who have no problem with either candidate, but it seems the most rabid fans of Cruz and Rubio don’t want to support the other, unless a gun were pointed at their head. Some people I’ve talked to say a Rubio or Cruz endorsement of the other wouldn’t change their opinion until maybe the general election. So if Cruz and Rubio supporters don’t want to support the other candidate, why would the candidates themselves do it? This isn’t suggesting a Cruz/Rubio or Rubio/Cruz ticket wouldn’t defeat whoever the Democratic nominee is. But getting the two of them to get along is going to take a lot of time, and probably won’t happen until after the primaries are done.