Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together — mass hysteria!
If you want to know how deep the animosity to Trump runs among NeverTrumpers, you can’t do better than watching Lindsey Graham conditionally endorse a guy about whom he said earlier this week, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” It also tells you a lot about how grim nominal Rubio allies have grown about his chances. When one of Congress’s most notorious super-hawks — and a fellow member of the Gang of Eight — is looking ahead to a Trump/Cruz race, says James Poulos, you know Rubio’s in trouble:
No candidate in the race offers as clear and comprehensible a break from the Bush legacy on international relations as Ted Cruz. To be sure, Trump has praised Putin and raged — quite effectively — against the President Bush who blew big bucks on near-disaster in Iraq. On the other hand, Trump has completely ignored his one concrete campaign promise to release a list of foreign policy advisors. Who knows — Trump included — what he has in store? Instead, it is Ted Cruz on the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Graham and that other influential interventionist, John McCain, and Ted Cruz whose dose of foreign policy realism best embodies a studious evolution forward from Ronald Reagan’s view of the best offense being a good defense.
If the likes of Graham, McCain, and Jeb Bush himself believe they can or must make room for Cruz on foreign affairs, that bespeaks a colossal evacuation of the established party’s confidence in Rubio’s fight against Trump. Rubio not only embodies the establishment’s idea of the perfect Republican voter. He has also swallowed — hook, line, and sinker — an insecure version of neoconservatism, somehow convinced it is the baseline for mainstream Republican candidates.
As a Cruz fan, let me make an argument against interest: Are we sure Rubio’s done? Going one for 11 last night smells like a disqualifying failure, but Rubio fans have some valid defenses of his performance. Virginia, the sort of blue/purple rather than deep red state that’ll populate the primary calendar starting on March 15th, was supposed to be a 14-point blowout for Trump according to RCP’s poll average. Trump ended up beating Rubio by less than three points; Cruz was an also-ran. Cruz may get a little momentum from last night’s wins in Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, but absent anyone dropping out, there’s no reason to expect a major surge towards him in electorates that look more like Virginia’s than Texas’s. Another good point from Rubio fans: It’s silly in a sense to focus on who actually won a state when every state is awarding delegates proportionally, by congressional district. Delegates matter, not states — at least for now, before we move into winner-take-all jurisdictions. John McCormack put it succinctly:
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) March 2, 2016
If Rubio had actually nudged past Trump in Virginia, the media would be in hysterics over the upset … but meanwhile it would mean next to nothing in the metric that actually counts, delegates. And Virginia wasn’t the only state where Trump’s margin was smaller than expected. He won narrowly in Vermont and Arkansas as well. Before the results came in last night, Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight said Trump winning 300+ delegates would be a good night, 250-300 would be about as expected, and less than 250 would be bad. He finished with 234, giving him 318 delegates in total since the primaries began — still plenty good enough at this point to put him on track for the nomination but leaving him short of the juggernaut buzz he would have enjoyed this morning if he’d blown out Cruz and Rubio everywhere except Texas. And although Rubio’s now a distant third in overall delegates, with just 106 compared to 226 for Cruz, his home state has 99 alone and is winner-take-all. If he beats Trump there in two weeks, which everyone understands that he needs to do, he’d make up most of the difference with Cruz in one fell swoop and will be headed into Virginia-type states where primary voters are more likely to prefer him to Cruz. And don’t forget: Last night wasn’t supposed to be a three-win night for Cruz. Two months ago, before Trump proved his appeal in the south by winning South Carolina, Team Ted was hoping it’d be an eight- or nine-win night. Cruz’s wins in Texas and Oklahoma feel great because they restore the appearance of order to the Twilight Zone universe conservatives now find themselves in, but by no means was Cruz supposed to be a distant second in delegates at this point.
Long story short, I’m surprised that Grahamnesty, who’d obviously prefer Rubio to Cruz as nominee, was willing to entertain the idea here that Rubio’s goose is cooked and Cruz is the last best hope. In reality, the last best hope is a brokered convention. You would think he’d already be talking that up rather than pushing a rally-around-Cruz idea which, quite frankly, might well lead to Trump winning most of the blue and purple states to come.