Following Donald Trump's victory in South Carolina and Nevada after his overwhelming win in New Hampshire, there are now only two candidates for the nomination: The Donald, and Anybody Else.
Contrary to the media narrative, though, it's still a contested race. While Mr. Trump has now won two states and the majority of delegates awarded, nowhere has he won even half of all participants in the Republican primary. Not-Trump has been the preferred choice of most voters.
Which raises a question: who is a plausible candidate who might possibly be able to knock Trump off his perch?
At this point, there are really only two possibilities: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Dr. Ben Carson, for all his personal merits, has not shown himself to be ready for prime time in the national spotlight. John Kasich, as he himself said, would be more at home in the Democratic primary; while he has his admirers in the more liberal states like New Hampshire, there's no reasonable way he could break into the top spot anywhere. The others have dropped out and don't count.
The most relevant dropout, of course, is Jeb! Bush. Not only does his departure free up countless millions of big-donor dollars, it also releases the establishment-Republican voters and endorsers to support someone else.
It certainly seems likely that anybody who really likes the Republican establishment - and who else would even consider voting for a Bush? - will turn to Marco Rubio. Sen. Cruz has set himself up as the enemy of business-as-usual. Mr. Trump is the very epitome of a bull in a china shop, so that doesn't leave a lot of choice for the country-club types.
Ted Cruz is a different sort of political beast, with advantages and disadvantages of both sides of the Republican rift. He is by definition part of the "establishment": he holds a Senatorial office and has been in high elected position for a fair few years. Donald Trump, of course, has never held office anywhere.
On the other hand, Sen. Cruz has made a pest of himself, standing in the way of any number of establishment-beloved and voter-hated policies. He singlehandedly filibustered, for 21 hours, a budget to fund Obamacare; he stood stalwart against the Gang of Eight amnesty bill; and he throws rhetorical rocks at Republican officeholders almost as frequently as Mr. Trump himself, if a bit less memorably.
There is one other difference that ought to have had more of an effect: unlike Republican elites in general and, certainly, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz is a devoutly religious man. Mr. Trump claims to be a Presbyterian, which is a Protestant Christian sect, but a modern Presbyterian isn't really much of a Christian by the standards of the religious right. He's said nice things about the Bible but doesn't seem to know it particularly well.
Sen. Cruz, on the other hand, could doubtless deliver a firebreathing sermon to rousing cheers from the Amen Corner should the opportunity arise. Where there is legitimate doubt about exactly what Mr. Trump believes, there is no doubt whatsoever about Sen. Cruz's core. He's stood in the same corner, fighting the same fights, for many years.
This constancy is a core part of Sen. Cruz's appeal, as witness his campaign slogan - "Trust Ted." What other politician would dare call out for trust? They'd be laughed out of the room.
But it's also a major cause of his negatives: there are, alas, a great many people who don't like rock-ribbed conservatism, chief among them the media and the Republican establishment.
That points to the most significant weakness between Sen. Cruz and Mr. Trump. Both excoriate the media in terms no other politician dares use, to rousing cheers. Somehow, Mr. Trump manages to do so in a way that ordinary people find not just understandable but entertaining. Sen. Cruz hasn't figured out the art of the showman to the same extent.
Mr. Trump may be a buffoon and a blowhard, but he's engaging and even endearing in his humanity. Ted Cruz usually comes off as the sober, super-overachiever with an earnest and logical answer to every possible question but does not offer a whole lot of touchy-feelies. In fact, the Wall Street Journal - hardly a member of the vast left-wing conspiracy - has described him as an "insufferable jerk."
Unfortunately, logic doesn't work with the low-information voter; they need emotional appeals, which The Donald offers in spades.
So, for those who find both Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz unacceptable, there's Marco Rubio, the "young Republican" from central casting. He's handsome, friendly, intelligent, and now luxuriates in endorsements from politicians far and wide.
Unfortunately, in the biggest choice of his political career, he revealed himself to be entirely unprincipled and dishonest. Let's let legendary conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly explain:
Rubio used amnesty opposition to get elected before coming to Washington to push the biggest mass immigration / amnesty bill anyone had ever seen. He declared of Gov. Crist’s position that “an earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty,” and that illegals seeking citizenship should “return to their homeland,” and that “if you grant amnesty as the governor proposes that we do, in any form, whether it’s the back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.”
When Rubio came to Washington he immediately began working on the DREAM Act he campaigned against. He staffed his office with several of the most pro-amnesty individuals in Washington (like Cesar Conda) and was limp to the point of lifeless in his response when the President nullified immigration law with the DREAMer executive amnesty.
Then came the Romney defeat. Billionaire donors and their pollsters declared that the GOP must pass an amnesty and mass immigration plan. Rubio then joined the Gang of Eight — whose members understood that Rubio would be able to sell their disastrous product to conservative media in a way they never could.
As we have pointed out repeatedly, if we do not immediately end the scourge of illegal immigration by removing all illegals from our country and stopping any new ones at the border, then we will soon lose our country entirely. If this is not done, nothing else matters.
Long before the final collapse, though, conservatism will be entirely dead as a political force. We've documented how immigrants, legal and illegal, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats; and their US-citizen-born children vote even more overwhelmingly for the socialist left. How can traditional conservative Americans withstand being swamped by millions of voters foreign in philosophy if not in passport? Quite simply: They can't.
So Marco Rubio placed himself prominently on the wrong side of the single most important issue in current American politics. What's more, he did so in such an ostentatiously dishonest way as to make himself a poster child for the "Washington insider" who says whatever is needed to get elected, then goes ahead and does exactly as he pleases regardless of what the people who voted for him said they wanted. No wonder the establishment is backing him - he's one of them!
And in this year of rebellion, where both the left and the right are up in arms against their corrupt party establishments, is he the standard-bearer the Republican Party wants and needs?
If so, then Sen. Rubio will probably be the last standard-bearer the Republican Party ever has. The only question is: how many Republican voters will realize this?
It seems a fair number of them are: according to current polls, Marco Rubio will lose to Trump in his home state of Florida, and for what it's worth, John Kasich will also lose to Trump in his own home state of Ohio. But Sen. Cruz still leads in his home state of Texas, which of course is also larger than the other two and worth more.
As Sen. Cruz never tires of pointing out, he is the only candidate who has proven able to beat Donald Trump even once, and he may well do it again. Where has Rubio beaten Trump? Where does it look like he's going to?
Yet Rubio, Kasich, and Carson hang on in a hopeless struggle. As long as they don't drop out, Mr. Trump probably has the nomination in the bag.
In a two-man race between Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz, Sen. Cruz might have a chance. With a three-way, it's Mr. Trump all the way, and there'll be no escaping him should you have that desire.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.