Third Party & Independents Archives

Rubio Is Now Battling With Kasich, not With Cruz

What does Rubio have to do? It looks like Mississippi and Michigan will hand him zero delegates. He may do better, as in even a win, in Hawaii. But Idaho is at best a cautious hope for a few delegates. What does Rubio have to do? Stay in the race of course. Even as Mississippi governor Phil Bryant has seen fit to endorse Cruz in the hope that the other two of the non-Trumpians drop out. That means Kasich, who is seeing Michigan slip away and back into Trump’s hands. And that means Rubio.

One endorsement does not make a stampede, and Ted Cruz is not well-liked in Washington. But Rubio is now in a race with Kasich, not Ted Cruz, to stay in third place. And he is in a race with Kasich over who can claim to hold true GOP button-down establishment values. That's interesting because Rubio has done his best throughout the nomination process to prove he's a true-red conservative. While Kasich has almost defiantly stuck to his moderate views on social conservative issues, while touting his fiscal prudence. Not his government-cutting zeal, but rather his prudence. Two very different things.

That means Rubio is to the right of where he'd like to be. And Kasich is to the left of where a 2016 GOP playbook says he should be. But Kasich is clearly more comfortable with his policy stances than Rubio is with his. Especially when Rubio gets grilled on immigration; even if immigration is not quite the issue it seemed to be last year. Rubio is young, ambitious and facing enormous internal pressure from forces that desperately want him to be the nominee. Kasich is older, stubborn and experienced, and has had the benefit of everyone's skepticism of the viability of his run at the nomination, right from the start of the campaign.

So while the momentum shifts between Cruz and Trump get analyzed by the hour, the momentum between Kasich and Rubio is at least as interesting. Especially if we do go to a brokered convention with a burned-out, exhausted and stumbling Rubio. And a determined and optimistic Kasich.

How fungible the votes are between Rubio and Kasich, between all four of them, is something that can only be answered one primary result at a time. But imagine if Rubio at some point - maybe after a disappointing result in Florida with Cruz peeling off some of his votes and Trump hanging on for a reasonable if not resounding win - decides he's had enough. Imagine anti-Trump forces trying to decide which narrative to quickly try to cobble together: we actually always kind of liked Ted; or Kasich was always our second choice.

Or does plan D - we nominate Romney somehow at the convention - get put into motion? Anything is possible between now and July in Cleveland. But as Trump continues racking up delegates, especially if he gets a big win in Florida, a brokered convention is increasingly impossible.

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