Following the Donald Trump blowout in South Carolina, pundits are calling for Ted Cruz to get out of the GOP presidential race to make room for Marco Rubio, even though Cruz won Iowa, came in third in New Hampshire, and essentially tied with Rubio in South Carolina.
The reasoning is sound if you don’t want a Trump nomination. As long as Rubio and Cruz are in the race, they’ll split the votes, and Trump will likely continue to dominate. One of the Cubans must go if you don’t want Trump to be the GOP nominee. Ben Shapiro says it needs to be Cruz.
Unless Cruz recognizes that while he may have strength down south, it isn’t enough to overcome the Trump wave, and he won’t have enough delegates to win the nomination in a fractured field – he’s going to run out of steam just before the winner-take-all primaries begin.
Whether Cruz will actually run out of steam is not certain, of course, but this is Shapiro’s conclusion given that “inevitability”:
Here’s what needs to happen: Rubio needs to call Cruz and offer him either the vice presidential slot or a nomination on the Supreme Court – the actual best place for Cruz – in return for Cruz throwing all of his support to Rubio. That would put Trump behind the eight-ball in a serious way. Cruz would likely hold out for the vice presidential nomination, given how many enemies he has in the Senate; he knows he can’t count on them to confirm him even if nominated.
But the deal needs to be cut. Only a Rubio-Cruz alliance will save the party from Trump. And both men need to put aside their differences for the good of the country and conservatism.
Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking. First, Cruz is not going to step aside on the promise of a VP spot, given Cruz’s committed fight for the presidency on behalf of his supporters who have worked tirelessly for him and donated money to his campaign. Could Rubio even be trusted to keep his promise?
Cruz Is Stronger as a Presidential Candidate
Second, the assurance of a Supreme Court confirmation—which would admittedly be more appealing—is pie in the sky. Shapiro recognizes this point, but let me make it even clearer because you’re going to hear people talking about it. Cruz would be accepting that deal without any certainty that it would actually happen.
For Cruz to take Antonin Scalia’s place on the court, Rubio would have to first win the GOP nomination. That is uncertain. He would then have to win the general—also uncertain. If he did win the general, Rubio would have to be trusted to nominate Cruz in the face of political pressure to choose someone else.
Finally, even if Rubio did nominate Cruz, it is highly unlikely he would be confirmed. The establishment wing hates Cruz. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he’s worse than Obama. The chance of Cruz being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice is slim.
Why would Cruz, who has a well-stocked campaign, more delegates than Rubio, and a strong ground game, give that up for a snowball’s chance at a SCOTUS confirmation? Why would Cruz, who appeals equally across more demographics than Rubio, including young people, and who still attracts more evangelicals than Rubio (even though both are losing too many to Trump), abandon his supporters to endorse a campaign that aligns more with the political elite class than voters who are fed up with Washington?
Many Cruz Supporters Will Go Trump, Not Rubio
The other problem with this Rubio–Cruz deal is it’s based on the assumption that Cruz’s supporters would head en masse over to Rubio. Will that happen? Most likely not. Many will, but it’s not certain that enough will fall in line to defeat Trump.
While Cruz supporters share his deep conservative values, they also have other concerns that align them more with Trump, especially if the true conservative were to step out of the race. Fifteen percent of Cruz supporters want someone outside the establishment; 24 percent are angry with the federal government and politicians in Washington; 24 percent want to deport illegal immigrants; and 23 percent want a temporary ban on Muslims.
If Cruz were to leave the race, many (some?) of these voters would fall in with Trump, not Rubio. Or they would stay home, just like many non-Trumpers in the GOP are threatening if Trump gets the nomination. It seems everyone has a bridge too far. The point is, they all can’t be relied on to hop over to the Rubio bandwagon.
Finally, anyone who thinks Cruz supporters would automatically vote for Rubio fail to grasp the deep impulses in this election that affect even principled conservatives like those who have rallied to Cruz. Pushing Cruz out on the basis that Rubio has been deemed more “electable” will be perceived as the establishment once again picking our candidate for us. This kind of skulduggery incited the rise of Trump in the first place.
The Optics Are Also Way Too Smarmy
Granted, it’s not just the establishment saying Rubio is more electable. Exit polls in South Carolina showed that voters think he’s more electable than Trump or Cruz. But here’s the rub. According to CNN polling, most did not vote with that as a priority. More chose the person who tells it like it is (Trump) even though they don’t think he’s as electable as Rubio or Cruz.
This just goes to show that when it comes to choosing a candidate, electability (which is subjective and fluid) is not the only thing driving voters. If Cruz voters think Trump shares more of their values (immigration, disruption of insider politics, banning Muslims, and killing ISIS), then they will vote for him over the more “electable” Rubio, just as many voters did in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
Neither can we dismiss the emotional element—or maybe a better words is experiential. Conservatives have been burned before. They’ve been told their candidate can’t succeed, that they need to go with the choice of the establishment. Rubio is trying to separate himself from that association by going around saying he is a “child of Reagan,” but Cruz supporters don’t see him that way. They see him through the oily film of the establishment. That might be enough to turn people away from him even with Cruz out of the race.
Cruz supporters are understandably jaded because they’ve seen their candidate attacked by the establishment over and over again. Some inside the Beltway have said Cruz is more dangerous than Trump, more dangerous than even Obama. They simply despise him and don’t want him anywhere near the White House. They’d probably even vote for Hillary Clinton if Cruz got the nomination. That’s how deep the animus is. Cruz supporters know this and will likely be uncooperative if another establishment candidate is forced down their throats simply because the insiders hate Cruz so much.
Cruz Is the Real Anti-Establishment Candidate
Given these realities, Cruz and Rubio will continue in the race. This is where the battle must be won for either one: on the playing field and not with backroom deals that will only fracture their support even more. If Cruz can’t defeat Rubio by convincing voters to choose him, and if Rubio fails to do the same, then Trump will win.
As one who believes values matter, that we’re in a constitutional crisis, and that Cruz is more electable than people assume, I hope voters will support the true conservative in the race. Not only that, Cruz is also more populist than even Trump, considering that Cruz wants the people to have political power instead of keeping it focused in Washington. He doesn’t want to make deals with political insiders, he wants to defeat them. He fights against the status quo, stands against political correctness, is strong on immigration, and will defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
When Trump supporters tell me they want someone who is going to push back against the establishment, I ask them, “Why are you supporting Trump?” They look at me dumbfounded, thinking the answer is obvious. “Because, you know, he tells it the way it is.”
That might be true, but Cruz has actually done something about “the way it is,” which is why the establishment hates him. If you want the real anti-establishment candidate, the only choice is Cruz. The establishment has told you that, which is why they see Cruz as even more dangerous than Trump. The candidate the establishment likes—especially now that Jeb Bush is out—is Rubio. Fair or not, he is the insider candidate.
Who then will most likely win the nomination, given the strong wave of discontent that has been driving this election? An insider or outsider? Anger with the establishment was obvious in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. How many more primaries will it take to get this through our heads? Combine the numbers, and we get significant support for outsider candidates: 67 percent in Iowa (Cruz, Trump, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina); 54 percent in New Hampshire; and 62 percent in South Carolina.
Cruz Is the Answer to Questions Voters Are Asking
Why then should people compromise and vote for someone who stands athwart that movement? Why not support the candidate who understands that impulse and also has the conservative values and experience to fight the real enemy: the Democratic Party and its goal to dismantle the American Republic?
You want an outsider? You want experience? You want the borders closed? You want Obamacare repealed? You want religious liberty protected? You want political correctness defied? You want military strength? You want someone who will stand against the Left instead of making deals with it? You want someone who won’t say one thing to you in English and another in Spanish? You want someone who supports policies that limit government instead of big-government subsidies? You want someone who can defeat the nightmare that is Hillary Clinton? You want someone who will nominate a Supreme Court justice who will preserve your rights and liberties? You want someone who tells it like it is and who stands for American values and American exceptionalism? You want someone the establishment despises more than anyone else?
The choice is clear. Now is not the time for compromise. It’s time to fight. It’s time to win. It’s time to take back our country from those who hate the very core of what makes it great—the American people and the law of liberty that binds us together.