In a nomination race like the Republican one, you could draw up a list of reasons to be skeptical of any candidate’s chances. Here are some reasons to be skeptical about Ted Cruz’s position in Iowa, for example. Here’s why Marco Rubio’s strategy looks increasingly precarious. There are also good reasons to be skeptical about Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination:
- His polling in Iowa isn’t great, and he’s probably still the underdog there.
- There’s reason to doubt the strength of his ground game, in Iowa and other states.
- Trump’s favorable ratings and second-choice numbers are generally inferior to Cruz’s and Rubio’s, meaning that other candidates might benefit more as the field winnows.1
But the reason I’ve been especially skeptical about Trump for most of the election cycle isn’t listed above. Nor is it because I expected Trump to spontaneously combust in national polls. Instead, I was skeptical because I assumed that influential Republicans would do almost anything they could to prevent him from being nominated.
I’m in the midst of working on a long review of the book “The Party Decides,” so we’ll save some of the detail for that forthcoming article. But the textbook on Trump is that he’d be a failure along virtually every dimension that party elites normally consider when choosing a nominee: electability (Trump is extremely unpopular with general election voters); ideological reliability (like Sarah Palin, Trump’s a “maverick”); having traditional qualifications for the job; and so forth. Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.
But so far, the party isn’t doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it’s making such an effort against Cruz. Consider:
- The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, said he wanted Cruz defeated.
- Bob Dole warned of “cataclysmic” losses if Cruz was the nominee, and said Trump would fare better.
- Mitch McConnell and other Republicans senators have been decidedly unhelpful to Cruz when discussing his constitutional eligibility to be president.
- An anti-Cruz PAC has formed, with plans to run advertisements in Iowa. (By contrast, no PAC advertising has run against Trump so far in January.)
You can find lots of other examples like these. It’s the type of coordinated, multifront action that seems right out of the “The Party Decides.” If, like me, you expected something like this to happen to Trump instead of Cruz, you have to revisit your assumptions. Thus, I’m now much less skeptical of Trump’s chances of becoming the nominee.
Can we take this a step farther, in fact? Can we say that the party hasdecided … for Trump?
I’ve seen some headlines to that effect, but they’re premature and possibly wrong. So far, the GOP’s actions are conspicuously anti-Cruz more than they are pro-Trump. For example, although former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin just endorsed Trump, no current Republican governors or members of Congress have.
Instead, it may be that Republicans think of Cruz as the more immediate threat, and then plan to turn around and attack Trump later. But that’s a high-degree-of-difficulty caper to pull off. For one thing, Trump, who’s in a much better position in the polls than Cruz in states after Iowa, could rack up several wins in a row if he takes the Hawkeye State.
Just as important, there are few signs that Republicans have much of a strategy for whom to back apart from Trump. Four “establishment lane” candidates — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rubio — are tightly packed in New Hampshire polls. That could potentially change before New Hampshire votes because of tactical voting.2 And whichever of these candidates perform worst in the early states will probably drop out.
But Republican party elites seem indifferent among these four candidates, when in my view some are more capable than others of eventually defeating Trump and Cruz:
Maybe not IN January.
BUT, back when he was at 1% John Kasich let his New Day for America super PAC be used in both November and December to roll out ads against Trump.
Now that Kasich is doing better (in one state) he dropped those anti-Trump ads.
But I think Nate Silver made a better case for why other candidates aren’t taking on Trump directly with his previous article:
Why Some GOP Candidates Aren’t Taking The Fight To Trump
In short it is enlightened self-interest.
To each candidate, his OWN interests take precedence over the GOPe’s interests.
@Nanny G: Who is Donald gonna be making all these “deals” with? Reid, Pelosi, Mitch?
He’s knocked out all the Repubs. and he’s already moving towards the middle–brilliant??