I’ve never been a particularly great poker player; I just don’t have the patience not to go all in after a few hands. As loyal readers of “The Arena” (Hi mom!) will know, I’ve been pretty set on Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton as the inevitable nominees. I’m doing well with my Hillary Clinton pick, although that’s not saying much. But I might be completely wrong about Rubio.
Rubio was doing all the right things. After solid performances in South Carolina and Nevada, he seemed to have calmed down his critics. Plus, he actually made Donald Trump look bad in last week’s debate. Unfortunately, none of that mattered on Super Tuesday, when he won exactly one state out of 11: Minnesota.
Because of really weak performances in parts of the South, Rubio is disproportionately behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the delegate count. Remember that primaries only elect delegates, who then nominate candidates at the party convention in July. So while Rubio has collected 22 percent of the popular vote, he has only won 16 percent of delegates. Welcome to American politics.
The good news for the anti-Trump crowd is that some upcoming states commit delegates in a winner-take-all manner, as opposed to the more proportional system we’ve seen so far. It is thus by no means impossible to catch up to Trump. Rubio could make up half of the gap with a March 15 win in his native Florida.
With Ben Carson dropping out, the Trump train will only gain more steam. If the GOP wants to block Trump, there’s a few ways. First, they could somehow convince three of the four other candidates to drop out until it’s a one-on-one race. Rubio would be the obvious choice (for me at least) to be the anti-Trump, if you will. Unfortunately, Cruz, Rubio and John Kasich all see themselves as potential anti-Trumps.
You can build out a pretty solid prisoner’s dilemma here. By not dropping out because they want to be the anti-Trump, candidates are only ensuring Trump wins the nomination. I would dangle the VP gig to convince someone to quit.
Option two is to make sure Trump does not have the majority of delegates by the time the convention rolls around, then nominate someone else. A brokered convention hasn’t happened since Adlai Stevenson in 1952, who lost to Dwight Eisenhower. Also, good luck getting this party to agree on anything.
Option three is the simplest one and the hardest to execute: just beat Trump. How? That’s the million-dollar question. Trump does have weaknesses. He continues to struggle amongst self-described moderates, getting just 23 percent of their votes in Virginia for example, compared to 35 percent statewide. Get Kasich out of the race, and more of those votes trickle to Rubio. In Virginia, it might have been just enough to get him the win.
I guess option four (perhaps the one least talked about) would be to just accept Donald Trump as the Republican Party nominee. I don’t think he’d stand much of a chance against the Clinton machine, but it would definitely make writing this column easy.