The real shape of the race

The most direct warning came from Laura Ingraham, the talk radio host and bestselling author, whose analysis of the presidential race has been very friendly to Trump. Ingraham called for a return to the “strategic alliance” that defined the Cruz-Trump relationship until January. Cruz and Trump “placed first and second in Iowa,” she wrote. “But if they don’t now combine forces and put aside their rancor, they may each find themselves losing the nomination to the third-place finisher, Establishment favorite Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.” Rather than attacking one another, she wrote, Cruz and Trump “should focus on the failures of the Rubio Establishment—like their support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, immigration amnesty and increasing the budget deficit.”

Some of these distinctions are not quite what they seem. Ted Cruz authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Paul Ryan in favor of Trade Promotion Authority, before opposing the TPP. Donald Trump expressed conditional support for “amnesty”—his word—as recently as 2013. And Trump opposes reforming entitlements, the driver of our debt crisis, while Rubio, running for Senate in Florida, campaigned on entitlement reform and then voted for budgets that included it.

Anticipating the kinds of presidencies we might expect from these candidates, it seems to me more accurate to look at the GOP nomination race as having three lanes, not two: a nonideological populist lane featuring Trump alone, a traditional Republican lane that includes the governors, and a movement conservative lane with Cruz and Rubio.