What a day. Ted Cruz demolished the field in the Kansas heartland and easily won on the Maine coast. With today’s Maine win giving him the easternmost state in the country and Tuesday’s overnight Alaska win giving him the second-westernmost state in the country, the narrative that he can only win in Middle America is deader than a dodo bird.
Ted Cruz lost an absolute nail-biter in Kentucky. Marco Rubio played the role of spoiler in the population center of Jefferson County, giving Donald Trump a 1% win there over Cruz. Regardless, the consensus as of less than a week ago was that Kentucky would be a landslide win for Trump, given the pervasive coal-infused populist culture there. This was another very strong showing by Cruz in a state that, as of only Tuesday, was expected to be a Alabama- or Tennessee-esque Trump romp.
Perhaps most interesting is Louisiana, which the networks called almost instantaneously after Trump dominated early voting returns. However, Cruz surged back by outright winning day-of voting, dramatically narrowing Trump’s overall victory margin and providing such tremendous late momentum that Nate Silver and others have been tweeting that the networks risked a huge (“yuge?”) embarrassment by not rescinding their early predictions there for a Trump victory.
In other words, #CruzMentum is real. What is not real is #MarcoMentum, which was always more a fanciful idea of the GOP Smart Set™ crowd than it was a pragmatic concept that would ever win over the national voting electorate.
The reality for the candidates, at this point, is abundantly clear. Ted Cruz has bested Donald Trump in seven states — including six outright wins — and has fought tooth-and-nail today in two others due to momentum following his masterful debate performance last Thursday. Donald Trump may have finally crossed the line for too many voters when he started discussing both genitalia and fascism, and Kentucky and Louisiana today both indicate he may be beginning to falter. Marco Rubio is flailing, and it is ridiculous to count on Puerto Rico to resuscitate moribund #MarcoMentum. Just as Rubio supporters on Super Tuesday complained of John Kasich denying them a win in Virginia, so too it is now fair for Cruz supporters to complain that Rubio denied them multiple wins tonight.
The anti-Trump majority is real. The bloviating narcissist can be stopped. But the coalescing must happen.
Here is what needs to happen. Ted Cruz should go on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow morning and publicly offer Marco Rubio the VP slot on a unity ticket. Marco Rubio, who has very little leverage right now and would likely lose Florida were he to stay in long enough, should take the deal. Our two young, articulate Cuban-American Senators can then criss-cross the country together, getting introduced at rallies by #NeverTrump (or, at least, #NotTrump) stalwarts like Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Ben Sasse, all in a grand fight to save conservatism from being hijacked by the demagogic faux-conservative fraudster, Donald Trump. It would be an incredible media spectacle — possibly one of the grandest political narratives of the past three or four decades. Movement conservatives, like myself, would be positively giddy.
The onus is now, as Erick says, on Rubio’s supporters. They have to recognize reality.
The die has been cast. Conservatism’s would-be savior has been chosen. Let’s accelerate this to the next stage and bring the one-on-one fight to Donald Trump.