The word from the Republican Establishment is that Marco Rubio is their guy. With Jeb Bush dropping out and John Kasich almost out of money, Rubio seems to be where entities like Fox News, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, and other power brokers in the Republican Party are quietly pitching their tent. According to math, their efforts are futile and will result in Donald Trump getting the nomination. Are they in denial or is there another agenda at work?
Following the early primaries and caucuses heading into Super Tuesday on March 1, it’s becoming more evident that Rubio is going to be oh-for-fifteen after March 1. Even the most optimistic never-say-die supporter has to weep at these prospects. If the Establishment is so opposed to a Trump nomination as many of them claim, why are they still supporting Rubio? Why wouldn’t they support Ted Cruz who has a much more favorable path to the nomination?
To answer this question, we have to go back 36 years to the last time they were faced with similar prospects. They didn’t have a Trump in the race mucking things up for them, but they did have a Cruz. His name was Ronald Reagan and just like Cruz, the Republican Establishment absolutely hated him. They saw in Reagan a cessation of their power base within the Republican party. This was at a time when the Republican Establishment had united the Neocons with the party moderates to generate the strongest base that they’d ever had. For this reason, a true conservative beating their anointed one, George H. W. Bush, was unfathomable.
When it became clear that they couldn’t beat him outright, they were able to broker a deal that brought Bush under Reagan’s wing as his Vice President. By doing so, they felt like they had a semblance of control. More importantly, they had a successor that fell in line with their agenda rather than risking another conservative following Reagan and essentially ending their control of the party indefinitely.
Cruz poses the same problem, which is why they are more concerned with taking him down rather than addressing Trump. Rubio is not their choice despite the narrative their spinning. At this point, most of the people “in the know” can do the math and see that either Trump or Cruz will win the nomination. In that scenario, the more malleable Trump is a better choice. Rubio (and his supporters) are being played for fools. He is simply a tool to eliminate the possibility of Cruz beating Trump.
It’s hard for Rubio fans to believe and utterly impossible for Trump fans to believe that the Republican Establishment is behind him, but a deep analysis leads them (and those of us who are watching) to the conclusion that Trump is much easier for the Establishment to control than Cruz. Trump is far from ideal and they realize that he would likely lose the general election, but it’s preferable to have Trump lose to the Democrats than to have Cruz beat them.
For the second-tier power brokers, the narrative they’re being fed is that they need to get Rubio into second so they can have a brokered convention. Anyone who knows the dynamic of conventions today realize that this is a ludicrous play, but they’re banking on the idea that very few will understand the difference between a futile contested convention and an impossible brokered convention. It’s all for show. They know that Trump will still come out on top and the first-tier power brokers are okay with that.
Their best bet is to convince enough anti-Trump Republicans to believe that Rubio somehow has a chance. They’re trying to manufacturer momentum through the press. They’re painting him as the “most electable” of the top three candidates. They’re hoping that nobody will look closely at history. They’ll point to Bill Clinton’s improbably “Comeback Kid” run in 1992. They’ll also hope nobody notices that his run still included three wins in the first 14 contests, that five candidates had won primaries or caucuses during that stretch, and that the “frontrunner” Paul Tsongas had only won five.
Here’s the unpopular truth, though truth nonetheless. Rubio doesn’t have a path but Cruz does. If there’s any hope of stopping Trump from getting the nomination and giving the election to the Democrats, Republicans must coalesce around Cruz and Cruz alone. I like Rubio, but I now realize that he’s unwittingly helping Trump and the Republican Establishment.