Unlike in 2012, the Establishment Will Not Coalesce Behind One Candidate in 2016

In 2012, Texas did not hold its primary until May 29. In 2016, Texas joins Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Vermont (listed in order of population) in holding its primary election on Super Tuesday, March 1. This represents 25% of the population of the United States, so it is safe to assume there will still be at least two competitive potential Republican nominees heading into that election–probably more. Whoever wins the most delegates on Super Tuesday will almost certainly be the nominee.

Going into the primary election on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012, the Establishment was united behind only one candidate–Mitt Romney. However, the “Anti-Establishment” (inventing a term for this article to clarify that all Tea Party conservatives are anti-establishment, but not all those who are anti-establishment are Tea Party conservatives) was fragmented among three serious candidates–Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. Of the eleven states holding their primary on that day, Romney received less than 40% of the votes in seven of them, with a majority in only three of them–and that includes his home state of Massachusetts. However, Romney was awarded a majority of the day’s delegates.

I agree with [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] when he predicted that of the three potential Establishment candidates Bush, Romney, and Christie, probably two of those will run for the nomination. I would extend Cruz’s prediction to say that whether two or all three of them run, at least two of those will still be candidates on Super Tuesday 2016. Can you imagine being the chief of staff for an Establishment leader and having to pick up the phone and tell Romney “thank you for your service, but no thank you?” Or how about how to break that news gently to the man who gives every indication he wants to bring the wonders of New Jersey to the other 49 states? These are men used to getting what they want. Maybe one of them will stand back and open the door for Jeb, but both? Not a chance.

Even if the Anti-Establishment wing of the party repeats in 2016 the 3-way fragmentation of 2012, this change alone from one Establishment candidate to two Establishment candidates radically changes for the better the prospect for victory for Tea Party conservatives in 2016. This is because the sub-40% received by the Establishment in 64% of the Super Tuesday 2012 states would have to be shared between at least two Establishment candidates. This makes Super Tuesday 2016 much more competitive, even if all other factors are equal to 2012.

Adding to this advantage is that in 2016 the Democrats will have a competitive primary. Obama’s people aren’t very keen on Hillary and have been looking to Warren. Biden probably feels he is owed the presidency at this point. Governor Moonbeam may throw his ancient hat in the ring, as well. The point is that Democrats will be less likely to cross-over and vote for the most liberal Establishment candidate in the Republican primary.

Another advantage is that quite a few of the states on the list of those voting on or before Super Tuesday 2016 are solid red states rich in delegates. In addition to the list above, the Republican primary electorates in Iowa, Missouri, and the Carolinas are not too keen on the crap sandwiches McConnell and Boehner have been feeding as representatives of the Establishment wing. They will be very open to the Anti-Establishment candidates and will have a say before Super Tuesday 2016.

Yet another advantage is that in December 2010, no candidate held any kind of thrall over the Tea Party conservatives. Probably not Santorum and certainly not Gingrich. Neither of them got the “buzz” at any point in the campaign that Senator Cruz is getting this far early in the process. He represents a big state that has a seat at the table early in the primary calendar with a base that will turn out to support him–probably exceeding the popularity of Perry. I leave Ron Paul out because while he was just as anti-Establishment as the rest of us, he was likewise just as unacceptable to Tea Party conservatives as the Establishment was–albeit for different reasons.

Cruz has nowhere near a monopoly on the Tea Party buzz at this early stage, but the buzz he does have starts him ahead of the game heading into 2015. [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] is an Establishment/Anti-Establishment hybrid. His foreign policies are anathema to many in the Tea Party. His support of McConnell gives him Establishment credibility. His heritage will lock up a significant portion of the 2012 Ron Paul voters. Even if Perry, Walker, and Jindal join Cruz and somehow manage to stay in the race through March 1, this is a ratio of 2 establishments to 1 pseudo-establishment (Rand) to 4 anti-establishments. This ratio seems disheartening but is far more favorable than 1 establishment to 3 anti-establishments.

It is very likely that of Cruz, Perry, Walker, and Jindal, only two or three of those (certainly not all four) will not have suspended his campaign before March 1. Therefore, the more likely ratio is 2 establishments to 1 pseudo-establishment (Rand) to 2.5 anti-establishments. This is a fair fight. The factors cited above along with overwhelming rebellion within the base of the Republican party at the Leadership’s actions in the current Lame Duck session will most assuredly tip the balance even further in our direction.

Lastly, picture the final Republican presidential debate (almost certainly in mid or late February): You have Jeb standing next to either Romney or Christie. 50/50 whether you see Rand in there. Then you see Cruz and two of Perry / Walker / Jindal. Each candidate tries to make the case to the conservative base primary voters why he represents the best chance to beat the Democrats. Who do you think combines the debating skills and intelligence of a Gingrich with the passion for values of a Santorum with the communication skills of a Reagan?