The GOP beyond The Donald

by John Burris ([email protected]) 59 views 

Editor’s note: John Burris is a former member of the Arkansas Legislature.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.

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December is concluding. January is coming. Then the Iowa Presidential Caucus on Feb. 1. The fight for the Republican nomination has hit its stride. Here’s the status of the race, as it stands today, understanding that it could change tomorrow.

There are several candidates who shouldn’t be mentioned, but I’ll mention them anyway. They are George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Carly Fiorina hopes to stay relevant long enough to offer a key endorsement. She probably will. Our former governor, Mike Huckabee, has probably had the most disappointing campaign.

All should follow the U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham model and drop out soon. They add little to the field, despite their qualifications.

It’s safe to assume Graham won’t be endorsing Donald Trump, still the GOP frontrunner. He’s fun to talk about. That is probably why, at least in part, he is still ahead in most national polls. He’s the reality television show you can’t stop watching. The train wreck you have to watch until it’s over. The motorcycle that every 40-something year old man thinks about buying but never does because deep down he knows he shouldn’t. Some voters may cheer Trump, but they’ll never vote for him. It’s like spending a few Saturdays at the dealership and maybe taking a few test-drives, but eventually walking away.

The Donald gets constant media attention and the adoration of enough political survey takers to stand out in a crowded field of mostly boring politicians. He’s the Republican problem that Democrats love to enjoy. Hillary Clinton and others talk about him often because they want him to be the focus of the debate. But Trump is not leading in any early state, and as the field dwindles, supporters will filter elsewhere. He won’t be the nominee – despite Democrat’s best efforts.

The next-worst Republican nominee would be U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He’s a Trump with more political sophistication. His crusades in Washington have always been focused on exploiting conservative’s expectations for his own benefit, usually the generation of a fundraising or email list. Now he’s using those political resources as the foundation of an “outsider” campaign.

I know many good people who are supporting Cruz because they believe his exploits are sincere, not salesmanship. They’re wrong. Compare Cruz to Arkansas’ own conservative leader, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton. Cotton, while just as vocal as Cruz, has risen to prominence by attacking liberal policies, not the Republican strategy on how to slow down those liberal policies while actually not in control of the government. Cotton makes you feel good to be conservative. Cruz makes you mad. One is leadership. One isn’t.

So if not Trump or Cruz, who?

Rubio seems likely. He has hype, but a mediocre record in the Senate. He’s either missed several important votes or added nothing to the debate beforehand. That may have been by design, in order to avoid dangerous distractions to his ultimate goal of being president. I’m sure supporters would also say he has a more quiet, behind-the-scenes leadership style. We’ll know soon if that’s the truth or just excuses. I’m hoping it’s the truth.

Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie could still make a run. All will be relevant in New Hampshire, particularly if Cruz, Trump, or Rubio don’t have a particularly strong showing in Iowa.

The next month we’ll see Democrats and the media keep talking about Trump, the under-card candidates begin to dwindle, and the real frontrunners emerge.

Conservatives will have choices. Now they just have to make the decision.