Tuesday, March 8, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “Delay is the deadliest form of denial.” C. Northcote Parkinson

Welcome to the American Singularity.

This campaign refuses to allow conventional wisdom. Last week, Bernie Sanders might have been finished. Tonight, he won a big victory in Michigan. Last week, the Republican Establishment unleashed what’s left of their big guns to take out Donald Trump. Tonight (as of this writing) he sailed to easy victories in Mississippi, Michigan and Hawaii. Whether it is polling, punditry or electoral results, the race won’t let us get a handle on it. Just when we think we’re headed for a brokered convention on the Republican side, Trump wins again and makes that a more distant possibility.

Structural Collapse in Progress Part I

In both Michigan and Mississippi, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz combined for more than 60% of the total vote. And while that may mean Trump is beatable in an hombre v. hombre contest, more importantly it indicates that the “establishment” tranche of the GOP has shrunk considerably since 2012. I have been speculating for a few months that there may just not be enough Romney/McCain voters to go around anymore. Given Trump’s and Cruz’s continued strength, that idea appears to be bearing out.

The Establishment waited too long to combat Trump’s invasion. His forces have done more than forged a beachhead. They’re now moving inland with some momentum. It’s too late to throw him back into the sea. The best they can hope for now is stalemate – and that is not victory. And how far are we from February when Beltway insiders were musing they might rather have Trump as their nominee and president than Ted Cruz. Now Cruz is their savior? There is no small amount of irony there. And I can only imagine that should Cruz somehow win the nomination, he’d be looking to reshape the GOP apparatus in his image as well as the electorate in the states.

Allied forces offload men and machines in Normandy, 1944.

Allied forces offload men and machines in Normandy, 1944.

Structural Collapse in Progress Part II

If the Establishment electorate is disappearing or defecting, then tonight Senator Marco Rubio most felt its effects. Finishing under 10% in the balloting in both of the night’s first two contests, Rubio must hold out hope to grab some delegates out of Idaho and hope for a late-night win in Hawaii: making him 2-0 in island contests. [UPDATE: Rubio finished out of the money in all four states delegate-wise last night.]

And while we could make a similar argument about John Kasich finishing out of the top two everywhere, so many people; donors, the establishment, moderates, elected officials were counting on Rubio to serve as the savior of the Party. The speculation will be rampant: Was it the campaign’s decision to forgo organization for the klieg lights? Was the $30-plus million that Jeb Bush dropped on him a mortal wound no one saw? Was his New Hampshire debate performance terminal? Or was it his decision (brief as it was) to climb down into Donald Trump’s much that ultimately turned voters off?

It was probably a dash of all of the above. Competing against Trump was nothing we could have expected nor prepared for. For Rubio, (mostly) excellent debate performances, speeches and enthusiasm simply haven't convinced Republican primary voters that he is worthy of their consideration. And that’s too bad. Rubio is clearly a talented politician. He is a politician with a future. But as the next six days play out they will have a difficult decision to make: Whether to trade opportunities a year (or more) from now for the longest of shots to win Florida and somehow wrangle the nomination away from one of the delegate leaders.

Super Super Super Duper Tuesday

Beware the Ides of March! The over/under on how many Caesar puns we’ll have to endure next week is 22,245. Both the Republicans and the Democrats square off in five big states: North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Missouri.

John Kasich and Marco Rubio will mount crucial holding actions in their home states. If they cannot win at home, it’s nearly impossible for them to continue. Second place will not do. Unlike Cruz and Trump who can reach out into Tar Heel country or Mighty Mo, the home state heroes must stay close to their bunkers lest they lose even one voter to their opponents. Cruz continues to run the best technical campaign. They are attacking Rubio in Florida ahead of next week with the understanding that even if they lose, they’ve likely driven Rubio from the race with a Trump victory. And if Kasich cannot hold serve in the Buckeye State, we’re down to the two-person race that Trump claims to want and Cruz desperately needs. The biggest losers next week are likely the insiders.