Ted Cruz will be the Republican nominee. But Marco Rubio should be.
I’ll give an honorable mention to John Kasich in the who-it-should-be category, and to Donald Trump in the who-it-will-be lane.
Who will be the nominee?
While Trump leads strongly in the polls, it’s wrong to say a majority of Republicans support him. A majority support someone other than Trump. He received 35 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, but 65 percent favored someone else. He leads with 37 percent in the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls, but 63 percent support other candidates.
As more GOP candidates drop out, I predict a majority of their supporters will move to a non-Trump candidate. Ultimately, whether it’s settled at the convention or before, Trump will come in second.
Before the New Hampshire primary, I would have said Rubio was a strong dark horse to slip past Cruz on the strength of the mainstream Republican vote. But even he finally admitted to his abysmal performance in the pre-NH debate. It surely cost him a lot of votes. He also gave opponents, critics and comedians fuel for the rest of the primary season. Now he’ll have to fight the perception of being a robotic candidate. Still, he is third in polling in South Carolina.
Kasich came in second in NH, but he laid it all on the line there, holding more than 100 town hall meetings. I consider him a good candidate with a strong record. But I don’t see how he has the resources or support to leverage his NH success in future primaries. Real Clear Politics shows him with only 4 percent support in South Carolina.
Cruz is showing the most consistently strong support as an alternative to Trump. But both cater to those who want an outsider. Assuming Bush, Carson and Kasich bow out, is it still possible for Rubio to grab enough of their mainstream support to edge the top two candidates? Yes, but it’s doubtful.
So I see Cruz gaining and eventually slipping past Trump. He will be the Republican nominee.
Who should be the nominee?
Should refers to the candidate who has the best chance of winning the general election. It also happens to coincide with my personal preference.
Since last June I have supported Marco Rubio, with Carly Fiorina a close second. As she has faded, I have seen and learned more about John Kasich. He has now become my close second. Either of those candidates would have my support, and I believe, the best chance of winning the general election. Both would have much broader appeal than Cruz or Trump.
Will this go to the convention?
I hope both parties’ races go to convention. I’ve enjoyed that in the distant past.
The 1980 convention fight between Carter and Kennedy was one of the best political dramas in my lifetime. Kennedy’s concession speech persuaded most that they had picked the wrong guy, and weakened Carter’s reelection chance. The Reagan-Ford convention battle in 1976 similarly damaged Ford, the eventual nominee.
This time there is not incumbent to hurt, and two convention battles would be great high drama this political year. I see it happening on at least one side of the aisle this year.
I’d say Republican is more likely.