If the Republican party and Washington establishment had hoped that yesterday’s contests would clarify things and be the beginning of the end for Donald Trump and the start of the rise of Marco Rubio, last night’s results were a nightmare because everybody except Rubio had something to point to as a success.
Ted Cruz had the best night on the Republican side and won the Kansas and Maine contests while Trump won Kentucky and Louisiana. While Cruz got more delegates last night than Trump, the first three are all closed caucuses which is Trump’s weakest terrain. Trump’s worry has to be the fairly close win he had over Cruz in Louisiana. We will now have to listen to Cruz gloating about his great victory all over the media with that repellent smug smile of his. He will undoubtedly call on Rubio and Kasich to give up and unite behind him which they will refuse to do.
But although he will not bow out, at least not yet, Rubio’s three third place finishes and one fourth place in Maine has to hurt. His new strategy, backed by the party and political and media establishments, of muck-raking, insult-driven assaults on Trump may well have hurt Trump somewhat but seems to have backfired on him even more. His team is saying, as they always do after losing, to wait until the next contests where they expect to do much better but that spin must be wearing thin with the party establishment who must wonder whether they need to cut their losses with him and if so, who they can turn to next in their effort to stop Trump.
Their previous establishment champions Scott Walker (remember him?), Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie have all fallen. Cruz is now the obvious person to challenge Trump for the nomination except for the fact that they do not like him, though they may eventually decide that he is their only hope and swallow their distaste. Kasich would suit them much better but his performance so far is much worse than even Rubio’s. His only rationale for staying in the race is the absurdly low expectations that he has set for himself, where he talks as if winning Ohio is all that matters.
The problem for the establishment is that they cannot until March 15 for Ohio and the Florida primary in Rubio’s home state to make the final decision, because that might be too late to stop Trump.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders can take pleasure from in his wins in Nebraska and Kansas but the lopsided loss in Louisiana and Clinton’s increase in delegate count has to be a concern.
Today on the Republican side, there is an open primary in Puerto Rico where Rubio was campaigning yesterday, followed on Tuesday by an open primary in Mississippi, two closed primaries in Michigan and Idaho, and a closed caucus in Hawaii.
On the Democratic side, today sees a closed caucus in Maine and on Tuesday there are open primaries in Michigan and Mississippi.
While we have come a long way from the 17 Republicans and five Democrats who started out back in the distant past, it looks like we still have some way to go.