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.
I wrote a few weeks back that the decline of Trump had started. I might have been wrong about that. After winning the South Carolina primary and the Nevada Caucus, he seems as strong as ever.
I might have been wrong about Cruz, too. After winning the Iowa Caucus I said he would be the favorite in future contests. Instead he seems weakened, finishing third in states he thought he would win. Between the two them has stood Rubio, who seems to have life, even if breathed into him by popular endorsees who helped him finish second place, barely, and potentially reshaping the narrative of the race moving forward.
To be wrong again in the future I must make more predictions now. Here they are.
Despite Trump’s recent win, it’s hard to envision him as the nominee. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a path. If he is not the nominee, it will only be because of a drawn out electoral and delegate fight that prevents it. He’s winning states and delegates. As long as he keeps winning states, he’ll keep winning delegates. I find that logic hard to disagree with, despite my disbelief. With a crowded field his “ceiling” of support is high enough to keep coming in first.
It’s true that we’ll soon move into primaries in states that award delegates more proportionally, versus the winner-take-all model of South Carolina. Still, running up an early lead and then finishing first or second in later contests is enough to be at the top of a three-man nomination fight. As long Rubio and Cruz keep slugging it out to be the one to take down Trump, the less likely either will get a chance.
The Summer of Trump, Part 2, approaches.
For Cruz, his bad behavior might have finally caught up to him. The most obvious proof is Ben Carson, the nicest unqualified man to ever run for President, who has repeatedly criticized the opponent for his tactics. Defenders say his gimmickry is just the process. But in typical Cruz fashion, he’s done the things most people do, but a little bit cuter than most people do them. It plays into his stereotype almost perfectly.
Examples are abundant. Most political ads are overly simple or even misleading. Cruz’s were so bad a television station turned down his money and refused to air it, acting on advice from their attorney. His mail pieces have been disguised as official government correspondence, or even stamped with a promise of a check inside. His national spokesman has been fired for promoting the belief that Rubio mocked the Bible. Cruz’s rants on friendly media outlets are cringe worthy and seem learned from the Benny Hinn School of Leadership, if there was one, not the Harvard he attended.
Of all the things I’ve been wrong about, I don’t think I’m wrong about Cruz. He’s not hard to see through, unless blinded by the emotion he plays to so well. His self-serving charade should end, and it’s appropriate that he’s become a victim of the beast of unrealistic expectations he helped create.
So what of Rubio? He’s the candidate I want to succeed, but he’s yet to prove he can. It’s a harsh but honest reality. True, he has obstacles in his way that are no fault of his own, like a crowded field and a Trump-obsessed media. But every President who ever won has had obstacles too. You can’t simply ask the electorate to acknowledge you’re the most electable candidate. You have to prove it, and you prove it by winning.
There are states approaching where Rubio can win, and he must if he hopes to be the nominee. A Kasich and Carson exit would help, though it’s worth noting that Nevada, Trump’s strongest finish, came after the Jeb Bush exit so many thought was necessary for Trump’s decline to begin. They were as wrong as I was. That’s because whining about the obstacles in your path is not a strategy. Overcoming them is the only choice. I hope Rubio does.
If he doesn’t, Republicans will be stuck to rationalize how Trump is better than Hillary and at least it wasn’t Cruz.
But I hope I’m wrong about that too.