Why Rubio Can’t Win

Now that Chris Christie has crashed, John Kasich has been ghettoized, Scott Walker self-destructed, and nobody bought the idea of Jeb Bush, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men — as well as Fox News — are trying to shove Marco Rubio down the throats of the Republican electorate.

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But they’ll never make the sale.

The fundamental fault line that runs through the middle of the Republican and Democratic parties is that which separates the establishment from the true believers. And nobody will cross that line unless there is absolutely no other option.

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The basic strategy of the anti-Donald Trump hysterics is to force an amalgamation of the alternatives into a Great White Hope who can take on The Donald. They believe that Trump can only win a plurality and not a majority. Based on that flawed reasoning, they posit that all they have to do is to pick off the alternatives until there is only one remaining opponent to Trump, and they have decided that his name is Rubio.

But the defect in this thesis is that it ignores the fault line. Rand Paul voters didn’t go to Rubio, they went to Ted Cruz; Ben Carson voters would do likewise.

And should Rubio best Cruz and force his de facto withdrawal, his votes would not go to Rubio. They would go right to Trump.

From the start of the race, Cruz has managed to cleave as closely to Trump as possible without merging identities. Even as they have drawn apart, his attacks on Trump have focused on his lack of past support and current consistency in backing the conservative agenda. If he were no longer in contention, his voters would flock to the more rough-hewn alternative of Trump and not the smooth establishment charm of Rubio.

Each senator, congressman or governor who lines up to support Rubio brings with him the kiss of death. They announce his fidelity to an agenda and style of accommodation that is precisely what the Republican rebels can’t stand. With each endorsement, he becomes less the Rubio of the tea party and, instead, the Rubio of the unpopular establishment politics of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

Rubio is fundamentally weak. He is buffeted by outside forces and tries to walk a fine line of consensus among them. He appears to waffle from one side to another, attempting to keep his balance like a tightrope walker carrying barbells.

The would-be kingmakers are relying on massive amounts of money to elect Rubio. And they rely on huge doses of propaganda every night from Fox News. But to the extent that they push Rubio, they are trying to make a sale that the GOP outsiders won’t buy. And to the extent that they try to knock Cruz, they are creating votes for Trump, not Rubio.

No matter how you slice and dice it, the Republican electorate is 2:1 against the party’s leadership. Whether they express their discontent by backing Trump or Cruz or Paul or Carson or Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum doesn’t really matter. The candidates are fungible. It is the posture of animosity to the deal-making and craven refusal to stand up to President Obama that they oppose.

Rubio can never span that divide.

The winner of this race for the GOP nomination will be either Trump or Cruz, and the party establishment better get used to it.

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