The GOP elites’ Super Boozeday

Clarke Fox, Staff Writer

On the night of March 1, all of the Super Tuesday votes had been cast and Washington waited with baited breath. We can safely surmise that the elites and kingmakers of the Republican Party were tossing back one glass of bourbon after another to forget that a bombastic xenophobe is marching defiantly to the Republican nomination as their Grand Old Party (GOP) dissolves beneath him. The loud shrieks echoing throughout D.C. were not those of Donald Trump supporters celebrating his Virginia primary win in nearby Arlington, but those of desperate Republican bigwigs crying out for a miracle, a new way forward, and a world without Trump. Did any of this happen? Okay, probably not, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

For months, GOP elites have desperately sought to derail Trump’s campaign, and for months, Trump has defied political gravity and cemented his place atop the race for the Republican nomination. On Super Tuesday, Trump won seven of the 11 Republican primaries. Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas, along with Oklahoma and Alaska, and the quickly fading Marco Rubio won Minnesota, his first primary win of the campaign season.

With each successive primary and caucus victory, Trump inches ever closer to the nomination, and the Republican Party inches ever closer to a bitter bifurcation. As I see it, Republicans have jostled into two polarizing camps: the Make-America-Great-Again Trump diehards, and the anyone-but-Trump activists. The GOP faces an identity crisis that poses a very real threat to the survival of the party. The ideological fissures have ignited a civil war within the party, evidenced by the petulant and disruptive debates, which portend to strengthen the inviolability of a Democratic hold on the White House.

The difficulty facing the Republican establishment has been the inability to grow consensus around a Trump alternative. The clear mainstream alternative is Rubio; after his surprising third place finish in Iowa, the establishment moved quickly to coalesce support, and lots of money, behind the Florida senator. However, his inability to win in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada in addition to the fact that he neglected to make any real noise outside of Minnesota on Super Tuesday has placed him in a deep delegate hole behind Trump and Cruz. Cruz, though a winner in Iowa and three Super Tuesday states, is a far less attractive mainstream alternative and is perhaps too conservative to find success in the general. He is a friend to few Republicans in Congress and has many questioning whether he is in fact a favorable alternative to Trump.

Nearly every political strategist and insider suggested that we would see a mainstream alternative emerge when candidates exited the race and the Republican pool dwindled to a handful of remaining candidates, as happened in 2012 with Mitt Romney. However, like seemingly all predictions of the 2016 presidential cycle, it was categorically wrong.

Trump’s impressive wins on Super Tuesday came just hours after a CNN/ORC poll had him losing to both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in hypothetical general election match-ups. Trump loses in the hypothetical matchup against Clinton 44 percent to 52 percent, and against Sanders 43 percent to 55 percent. Though we ought not give too much credence to hypothetical general election polls, they tend to fit the narrative that Trump is undoubtedly unelectable in the general—a narrative that has the GOP establishment scrambling.

With Clinton winning seven states to Sanders’ four on Super Tuesday, it appears as though Democrats are falling in line while Republicans are falling apart. Much of the momentum of the frenzied Sanders campaign is fading, as the intoxicating flirtation with ideology has been superseded by pragmatism. As the Democrats begin to unite behind Clinton, the Republican establishment is frantically searching for an answer by March 15.

Why March 15, you ask? Because after March 15, delegates in the majority of remaining Republican primaries and caucuses are awarded on a winner-takes-all basis. This means that if Trump beats Rubio or Cruz by only a handful of votes in a state’s primary, he still gets all of that state’s delegates instead of having them awarded on a proportionate basis. This is historically the point when front-runners separate from the rest of the pack and the ultimate nominee emerges. If the Republican establishment has any chance of denying a Trump nominee, they must position Rubio, Cruz, or John Kasich to win the key March 15 states: Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and  Florida. A word to the Republican establishment: act fast, the Ides of March are upon you.

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