|At Least We Have More Debates Than Candidates Now!|
The Donald took a beating: Fox showed a montage of him changing his opinions. Cruz and Rubio mocked him--but at the end of the day? At the end of the day things may have gotten worse for the GOP--not better.
The Status Quo vs. The GOP Elite
What you see above is the New York Times map how every state remaining will vote if things go the way Super Tuesday did. This isn't a brokered convention: It's Trump. Now, a lot can change between now and California but the problem is that things are changing in the wrong direction.
While the full analysis isn't in from last night isn't in there's a general consensus: Rubio lost. Rubio did okay at the transcript level but he looked tired and maybe ill. Low energy.
My 25-person focus group’s picks for winner tonight:— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) March 4, 2016
• @JohnKasich: 18
• @TedCruz: 6
• @realDonaldTrump: 1
• @MarcoRubio: 0#GOPDebate
He also got down in the mud with Trump while Cruz hovered above the fray. Early reports are that this hurt him with voters:
To compound this, Kasich actually did pretty darn well--even though he has no chance to actually win--and therefore will (a) likely remain in the race through March 15th and (b) will take some share of the vote from Rubio who is the next closest thing to a moderate.Not good – Rubio's attacks on Trump are bombing.— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) March 4, 2016
The worst dial scores of any #GOPDebate so far.
This leaves Ted Cruz as the probable on-paper winner who might, you know, actually win. Let's go back to that NYT article:
It would be easier if Mr. Rubio, not Mr. Cruz, were the main rival to Mr. Trump. The model shows Mr. Rubio is on track to surpass Mr. Cruz in delegates by the end of the primary season, despite his struggles so far.
That may seem surprising, since Mr. Rubio has won fewer states than Mr. Cruz. But the states about to vote are more moderate and plainly worse for Mr. Cruz than the states that have already voted.
Mr. Cruz has nearly no chance to win the delegate-rich blue states later in the calendar. He’s not even on track to exceed 15 percent of the vote in several states where Mr. Trump would need to be slowed, while Mr. Rubio is in striking distance.This echoes what other people are saying: Cruz did well in Texas--but there's only one Texas. If Rubio doesn't win Florida on the 15th then stopping Trump may well be mathematically impossible no matter who does or does not drop out, throw support, etc.
The GOP Divisions Are Not Just Trump and Not-TrumpThis highlights one of the less visible problems with the GOP coalition: the big division is "the base vs. the establishment"--but there are also serious divisions between ideological conservatives and more general small-government fiscal voters. The former strongly wants Ted Cruz because he's a TruCon warrior. The latter thinks Kasich is probably the best bet to win a general election if the GOP base would get behind him.
Rubio has landed in the middle--but the thanks to the witch-hunt (RINO-hunt) mentality of the GOP electorate, heresies are never forgiven and everyone is assumed to be a liar if there is any hint of heterodoxy. Thus, Rubio's Gang-of-Eight past will forever haunt him even if he pledges to fire illegal immigrants back to Mexico with a catapult.
There's also a charisma problem: neither Ted Cruz nor Marco Rubio have any star power. Kasich sure doesn't either. The GOP is hungry for a messenger that people will flock to. Rubio comes the closest of anyone but Donald Trump. This shows up in polling that asks who voters would be satisfied with should their preferred candidate not win:
The GOP isn't just divided--it's ideologically fragmented. There's nothing like partisanship to put things back together though: The Omnivore asserts that a few days of Hillary campaigning on TV and everyone will line up behind the Trump / Kasich ticket you know is coming.