Ok, look, I know that it seems like Donald Trump is poised to win in Iowa then go on to carry New Hampshire by a wide margin. He’d then sweep through the South after having undermined Ted Cruz’s popularity and ride the momentum to a significant delegate victory. This is, it seems, the “most likely scenario.” In fact, it’s becoming more likely by the day (to the extent that it is becoming the safe bet).
Now, let’s say you’re in the something-like-60% of the Republican base that doesn’t particularly like the scenario laid out above. Maybe it’s because you feel Donald Trump isn’t a conservative or maybe you think he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing who has been planted in the Republican race to secure the Presidency for Hillary Clinton. Either way, you’re looking for your “anti-Trump.” Unfortunately, for the last several months, you’ve been wholly uninspired and decided not to really back a candidate. You thought that the “Trump thing” would just go away and you’d be able to pick from several exciting variations on Republican vanilla.
Unfortunately for you, the “Trump thing” has only magnified, intensified, and like a seeming force of nature, has plowed over your fantasy. Now, like many of the pundits out there, or the people at FoxNews, you might still be in denial that Donald Trump is single-handedly controlling the news cycle on a day-to-day basis. You might hate him, but he’s winning.
So, what do you do? What is your way to beat Donald Trump?
Well, let’s start with what not to do–
- Jeb!- Jeb Bush’s campaign has proven that it can’t stand up to Trump. They burned through nearly a hundred million dollars and cant’ get above 10%. Jeb was supposed to be the heir-apparent but the only thing apparent about his campaign is the fact that voters dislike him almost as much as Trump. Non-starter.
- Ted Cruz- Donald Trump has revealed two major flaws in Cruz’s candidacy: people don’t like him and the same people are willing to doubt him. The Canada stuff, taking big money, flipping on ethanol, and getting thrown under proverbial buses on a daily basis by establishment Republicans has undermined Cruz’s credentials. Likewise, against Trump, he’s proven toothless.
- Chris Christie- New Jersey’s primary comes at the end of the cycle and he has very little support outside of the Northeast. Where would he win beyond New Hampshire and potentially Vermont on Super Tuesday?
- Marco Rubio- Most folks’ best bet for an establishment nominee. But, let’s wonder: where could Marco actually win? Trump is up big in New Hampshire and, despite Trey Gowdy’s endorsement, Rubio is in third in South Carolina. His best Super Tuesday might get him delegates in Vermont and Virginia, but the story of the day will be the massive delegate hauls from the conservative South. Rubio’s best shot would come in Florida, but he’s running behind Trump in a massive way. If Rubio loses Florida to Trump on March 15, his campaign is effectively over.
So, the “establishment” needs a candidate that can survive past March 15 and get into the back-ended “moderate” (read: blue) states that come later in the GOP primary contest. If this is your goal, your only choice is John Kasich.
Wait, what? The interrupting flabbergasted moderate guy? He’s a nobody!
Kasich’s strength is that he is very popular in Ohio. Ohio, along with Florida, votes on March 15 and is winner-take-all. Kasich has a much better chance of winning his home state than does Rubio. Kasich also presents a much more moderate brand of Republicanism that could attract moderates in contests beyond March. He’s a sitting governor with Washington DC experience (and all the big-money lobbyist baggage that goes with it, of course). Frankly, in most any other cycle, Kasich would be sitting very close to the top of the pack.
Kasich is also polling about even (or ahead given the poll) with the other “establishment” candidates in New Hampshire. While he has no real shot in Iowa, he can stake out his claim (and tout his endorsements by some Northeast newspapers) that he should be the standard-bearer for the establishment lane.
The Kasich argument would be one geared to numbers and logic: “I can win in Ohio and make it to the later states where my moderate credentials will get me a lot of support when people ‘sober up’ from their infatuation with Trump and are looking for a way out.”
Is any of this realistically possible? Given the current climate, probably not. Kasich would need Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio to drop out imminently and to get several million dollars more in support.
While it’s likely arranging deck chairs on the establishment Titanic: Kasich would be, mathematically, the best shot for the establishment to beat Trump.