This is all to say that if you’re a Republican who doesn’t like Trump or Cruz you have one real option left, and that’s Rubio.
Rubio is, at least in a traditional sense, the best politician in the whole bunch. He’s the most articulate, which he showed again at the debate on Thursday, another in a series of strong performances. He knows policy, and how to talk about it. He’s young and attractive.
But the best candidate on paper isn’t working out in real life, at least not in any meaningful sense. He hasn’t been able to capitalize on Bush’s utter and ongoing collapse. And of course his back-and-forths on immigration over the years have done him considerable damage. The only plausible path to victory for him I’ve seen, via the conservative Twitter pundit Dan McLaughlin, presupposes both a Trump collapse and Rubio losing the first three contests before racking up enough delegates in blue states to narrowly overcome Cruz.
Maybe Rubio gets that last-minute surge. But I really doubt it. Plenty has been written on why Trump has owned the polls for such a long time (the best explanation, to my mind, was from David Frum in The Atlantic). So without delving into the psychology of the Trump supporter, let’s just take a look at why he’s still looking so hot, and why we shouldn’t get optimistic about the Jebs and Marcos of the race.