Is The Time Coming for Rubio to Drop Out and Endorse Cruz?

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With Super Tuesday upon us, it’s time for those who don’t want to see Trump as the GOP nominee (which contrary to buzz is still the majority of Republicans) to start making choices. There have been plenty of pieces calling for Kasich and Carson to drop out of the race so that Rubio can get the critical mass necessary to defeat Trump. It’s not going to happen, and it’s not going to be enough.

Carson won’t drop out because his run has never been about probabilities, and he still has some books to sell. Kasich won’t drop out because he continues to have at least a chance of winning Ohio, a big winner-take-all state, which he hopes will finally ignite his campaign as the viable Trump alternative. This run is also Kasich’s swan song as a politician. He has every reason to give it his all.

Sure, it would be great if these men would both take one for the party, but honestly, it may not be enough at this point. According to the current RCP averages Rubio would need to pick up 100% of Carson and Kasich supporters just to tie Trump, and although Rubio does well as a second choice, he certainly would’t get all of them.

A possible near tie with Trump is not enough of a critical mass. We’re fast approaching a very dangerous point in the primary process. Even in this most anti-establishment of years, we GOP voters have a tendency deep in our political DNA to start convincing ourselves to get behind the winner at a certain point, and right now the closest thing we have to a winner is Trump. If we’re to have any chance at all of avoiding a Trump victory or a brokered convention, we need either Cruz or Rubio to pull far ahead and do so quickly, allowing the math to let him rack up the needed 1237 delegates. The way to get there is for Rubio to drop out and endorse Cruz.

Why Rubio? He beat out Cruz for second place in South Carolina and Nevada, and prediction markets currently put Rubio’s chances for the nomination at roughly twice Cruz’s.

Honestly, Rubio is my preferred candidate. While for many in the GOP his “Gang of 8” immigration compromise was a betrayal, I support his stance on that issue and even in the GOP primary I’ve been glad to see him take a slightly more moderate position on immigration than Cruz. I think Rubio’s tax plan is more realistic than Cruz’s flat tax. I’ve given money to the Rubio campaign, the first candidate I’ve sent money to since as a talk-radio-following high school student I sent $20 of saved allowances to the Steve Forbes campaign.

However Rubio is young enough that he could run for president in four, eight or even twenty years (and still be younger than Trump or Hillary is now.) This isn’t his only chance, and while in a normal year he might have swept to victory as a fresh conservative voice, this year he’s been tarred as the “establishment candidate” and may have trouble capturing Cruz or Carson voters, much less pealing away Trump voters. And although Rubio has posted some strong second place finishes, he has yet to beat Trump in any state, and if polls are any indicator he may not win any state on Super Tuesday either, while Cruz is expected to win at least Texas. If Cruz wins one or more states today, and Rubio has still not won a state, it’s hard to see why Cruz would choose to drop out, and with no clear wins in the coming weeks, it may be time for Rubio to consider doing so. Unlike Paul Zummo, I don’t think that Rubio would be an election day disaster, I think he might actually be a more successful general election candidate than Cruz, who will have to deal with the fact that he can be abrasive and he is even further to the right of the average voter than Rubio. But it doesn’t matter how electable Rubio would be in the general election if Trump captures the nomination.

Cruz’s rough edges have ruffled a lot of feathers in the party, but he is someone with a deep knowledge of the Supreme Court, who has both clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist and argued successfully before the Supreme Court as a lawyer, in an election during which the replacement for one of the leading conservative justices of the last fifty years hangs in the balance. He is a tough and effective debater who will take it to Clinton on stage, and now that he knows Trump is his greatest threat, he’s at last shown himself willing to go after The Donald effectively in the primary. With the current mood of the GOP there’s a risk that Cruz dropping out would leave disaffected anti-establishment Cruz supporters susceptible to falling behind Trump, but even though some establishment Republicans are currently, and self indulgently, threatening to support Trump over Cruz, it seems unlikely that many of those who make their livings from the party and the movement would really go with Trump over a Cruz able to command 40-50% of the party’s support. Cruz has also run the sort of smart, data-driven campaign which will be needed against a post-Obama Democratic Party, even under the shaky command of Clinton.

While Cruz would not have been my first choice, he is a strong and principled conservative. In his closing statement at the last debate, Rubio said, “We have an incredible decision to make, not just about the direction of America but the identity of our party and the conservative movement.” If our party is to remain conservative, Rubio may need to make a very difficult decision himself, to put the good of the party and the movement before his own immediate advancement. With Rubio behind Cruz, perhaps we can finally take back our party and defeat Trump. Making this decision for the greater good of the party and America would only serve to underscore Rubio’s stature, making him more likely to someday sit in the Oval Office than if he’s one of several contenders whose squabbling over the conservative vote leave control of the party to Donald Trump in a year that should have been ours to win.

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  1. I said basically the same to a friend (and fellow Rubio supporter) this AM. My only concern is that Super Tuesday represents the peak of Cruz’s appeal. This is the ground that he based his whole strategy around. If he has a lukewarm showing in the South, he may end up with slightly more delegates than Rubio, but actually be worse positioned for the remaining states, many of which are winner take all. Is Cruz going to take FL (where he’s 30 points behind Trump) or AZ? If Cruz is ahead of Rubio 2-1 or something like that, then it’s an obvious call. If they are even or close to even, I think the delegate math suggests the alternative strategy might be more effective (especially since Rubio has higher favorability ratings and the 2 person race polls show Rubio performing stronger against Trump).

  2. Like you, I would prefer Rubio but yeah,he needs to bow out if Cruz is going to have a chance.
    I’m wondering if Trump is nominated will Cruz or anyone else run third party? The party has been showing the strain for quite awhile now and I could see a split into a new “real Republicans” party leaving the official “RINO” GOP behind.

  3. Rubio really can bring people together for good ends. Like you I think he might actually be a more successful general election candidate than Cruz.
    The headlines on these posts are irksome to me – one suggesting Rubio is a disaster and one suggesting time for him to drop out in favor of Cruz-

  4. If Carson and Kasich don’t drop out then does it do any good for Rubio to drop out? Some of the Rubio support would go to Kasich instead of Cruz. Would the remaining Republicans be better off going with an 1836 Whig style campaign? Kasich in the North, Cruz in the South and Plains and Rubio in the border states and the West. All three would have a legitimate shot at winning a brokered convention, or at least Kasich would have a better chance there than an outright win.

    (The 1836 reference was to the general election that year but this would be for the primary. Actually similar strategies were employed in many primaries from the 1920s to 1960s.)

  5. I may have missed something, but to me Darwin, you seemed to be making a stronger argument for Cruz to step aside for Rubio.
    However, if I were a US citizen, Cruz would get my vote.

  6. If it’s Rubio and the GOPe in any serious way causes that, then IMO Hillary gets it, because the Trump people are in a frenzy and will not vote Rubio who represents the heart and souls of the amnesty/Chamber of Commerce GOPe/Democrat co-ruling parties.
    On the other hand, the GOP has been against Cruz from day one, sending the resurrected Dick Cheney down to destroy his senatorial candidacy. Palin rushed down to support him.
    I frankly, sense that collision of a level 8 magnitude is inevitable, and the revolt was in play long before Trump jumped in front of the torches and pitchfork uprising. No good can come from all this. The chickens are coming home to roost and the roost is gone.

  7. If it weren’t for the reality-show feel that’s already dominated this election, I’d say that Cruz and Rubio should meet in some middle location (say, New Orleans) and flip a coin.

  8. I like Rubio and Cruz. It’s a tough call. But, given Rubio has a more public appeal, I thought Rubio and Cruz could work out a deal. Cruz backs out and Rubio pledges to nominate Cruz to Supreme Court. After all, Cruz’s biggest selling point is his predictability. “I do what I say.” Has the legal chops. Constitutionalist. And, reliable. Perfect nominee after a string of unpredictable nominees.

  9. Except Cruz wouldn’t take the deal because Cruz is smart enough to know he wouldn’t survive the Democrat filibuster. And Rubio’s election day appeal is unknowable at this stage.
    And to add to Don L’s point, one of the more perplexing things this primary season is the number of people supporting Trump because he’ll stick it to the man, as it were, while also believing that Cruz can’t win –and couldn’t govern successfully were he to somehow pull it off– because nobody likes him for having stuck it to the man.

  10. “Cruz is a strong and principled conservative”.
    Yeah, ok, but I don’t think he’s electable, and if by chance he were, I think we’d end up with another 4 years of gridlock.

    Can we ask to have a border with Mexico without being called Racist?
    Can we be against Sharia Law without being called a xenophobe or islamaphobic?

  11. @Thomas,
    “Yeah, ok, but I don’t think he’s electable…”
    Keep saying it, and it might come true. Trump’s unfavorable ratings are the highest. Electable?
    “and if by chance he were, I think we’d end up with another 4 years of gridlock.”
    We’ve had gridlock? I wish.

  12. Assuming winning vs being ideological correct is still desirable the only approach that makes sense is to stay with Trump. Trump will win because Democrats have a bad candidate and no momentum. The fact that half the Republicans don’t like him is irrelevant. Mojo and momentum conquers all.

  13. The relevant question for me now is can Cruz win Florida if Rubio drops out? If he can’t then Rubio might as well stay in and try and win it himself. Does Cruz switch to a convention strategy? Rack up as many delegates as possible, while actually supporting Kasich in Ohio and Rubio in Florida to prevent Trump from getting to 1235.

  14. I’ve decided Rubio should stick around for another week or two. His willingness to play in Trump’s pig pen serves to elevate Cruz’s stature.

  15. Don the Kiwi on Tuesday, March 1, A.D. 2016 at 3:04pm (Edit)
    I may have missed something, but to me Darwin, you seemed to be making a stronger argument for Cruz to step aside for Rubio

    Short version, Rubio would be a kick in the the teeth of the people who are only supporting Trump to get the hint across that yes, we do rather care about that itty bitty “illegal immigration” thing.

    A whole lot of people don’t think Trump would deliver on what he’s selling, but they’re still going to be making a lot of noise to support him because (at times) he (claims he) is offering the stuff the Republicans are supposed to be about, instead of apologetically tacking it on to a Democrat platform like a trekkie trying desperately to excuse his enjoyment of the classic show.

  16. Carson won’t drop out…

    Carson dropped out today.

    As for Rubio vs. Cruz, I look with alarm at the records of presidents from Texas in my lifetime, LBJ, G.H.W. Bush, and G.W. Bush. The record of Southern Baptists from Dixie states isn’t good either. Thus, I’m leaning toward Rubio.

  17. Micha Elyi

    Texas is to blame and why you won’t vote for Cruz? That’s like saying I won’t follow that Jesus fellow because that Judas fellow lived there. You can do better.

  18. You’re correct, Micha, that I was wrong to predict that Carson would not drop out. And I’m glad to be wrong. Hopefully this small step helps the field consolidate against Trump a bit.

  19. Nothing is going to consolidate until after the 15th.

    And then only if one or more of the alternatives decides that they can’t, won’t or that it’s not worth it to play the spolier for a shot at becoming a brokered nominee at the convention.

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