So I went six for six in the GOP primaries on Tuesday and, as predicted, Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, too. I hope there’s a way back for Rubio as he remains an impressive guy. He won’t be in the Senate having bet everything on the presidential race, but perhaps he’ll make it as Florida Governor? Or, even better, as a VP to Ted Cruz if the Texan gets the nod? If those two could find a way to bury the campaign hatchets and work together they could offer a strong alternative to a Clinton-Castro, Clinton-Sanders (heh!) or Clinton-Whoever ticket in November.
But that still means getting by Donald Trump.
It’s hard to see Donald Trump not arriving at the convention with the plurality of delegates. Kasich has zero chance of catching up and Cruz, while mathematically capable of overtaking Trump, probably won’t. This means a contested convention with Trump in the strongest position in terms of delegates, Cruz in second, and Kasich trying to convince himself and everyone else he is relevant.
There’s talk of nominating someone else from the convention floor with everyone from Mitt Romney to Paul Ryan to Jeb Bush being tossed around as potential candidates. It’s always possible to nominate someone after the first ballot but I think it is very unlikely. If Trump’s candidacy has proved anything this season it is that there is a large portion of the GOP base that is unhappy with the party establishment. They have voted for a guy who is the antithesis of the party establishment and are favoring the in-the-party-but-still-outsider Cruz as their second choice. If the GOP finds a way to throw a failed candidate from this cycle or, even worse, a failed candidate from the last cycle onto the general election ballot they might be ensuring the end of the GOP as a political animal.
Maybe it’s what the GOP need but I am sure it is not what they want.
So how does a Cruz nomination and a Cruz-Rubio ticket emerge? I think there are a couple of things that need to happen.
First, Rubio needs to lick his wounds, think about his future, connect with Cruz, and make peace. Then, in a couple of weeks, start stumping for Cruz. I think making a formal announcement about running on the ticket would be a bad idea in March or April, it might even be seen as arrogant. But being there on the stump and campaigning for Cruz is going to send the message all the same and that’s important in itself.
Second, the party needs to start working for Cruz. Not the party machine, of course, as that wouldn’t be proper. But the fundraisers, the establishment people, the Romney’s and Ryan’s and Bush’s of the world, they need to come together and campaign for Cruz. They should accept that Cruz, while not a centrist Republican, is still clearly a Republican with values that align with a significant portion of the membership. He will never be their first pick for president, but he should be their last pick.
Third, someone has to talk to John Kasich about getting out of the race. Cruz needs to fight Trump one-on-one and Kasich dilutes the anti-Trump vote. Kasich is never going to win this thing and needs to do the right thing for the party. He should be lauded for being a two-term governor in a swing state, he should be lauded for keeping delegates from Trump in Ohio, he should be lauded – really – for his commitment to being a decent human being in every debate. Find a way to fit him into a Cruz cabinet if he wants to serve at the national level, but get him out of the race.
There’s plenty more than needs to happen to get Cruz the nomination, of course, but these three things would be a start. A Cruz-Rubio ticket would be incredible but it will need to come from the convention floor. This means getting Rubio, Bush, Kasich, and other non-Trump elements of the GOP to converge around Cruz, and that convergence needs to happen now and not while the convention is underway.
The GOP still has a chance to ‘Make America Great Again’ without endorsing Trump, and putting Cruz at the top of the ticket is the best first step to achieving that end.