“My problem with Trump is that he is a dealmaker trying to make a sale. Right now, he's trying to make a deal with conservatives -- so this is the very most conservative we'll ever see him.
If he gets the nomination, he now starts working on making the second part of the deal with the other party in the negotiations, the general public.
So this is the most conservative we'll ever see Trump -- this is the absolute most conservative he'll ever be -- and he's not conservative at all, except, possibly, on immigration. He combines liberal policy impulses with frankly authoritarian or even fascist ones, which he thinks are "what conservatives want," because, frankly, he conceives of us as ugly-minded, stupid dummies who get off on this shit.”
I think this analysis is spot-on. Trump is an unprincipled salesman in the process of making a sale. But he is also winning. So the question now becomes, who can stop him?
There are four other candidates in the Republican nomination race. Two of them are also-rans with no chance for victory. That leaves Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. At this point, if I were a betting man, I would put my money on Trump winning the nomination. But if he for some reason doesn’t, who is the second most likely?
To go forward with any credibility, I think the absolute minimum requirement is that you must be able to win your home state. If you can’t do that, then no one will take you seriously. In the case of Ted Cruz’s home state, Cruz is up on Trump by 8% in Texas, according to the Real Clear Politics poll averages. In the case of Marco Rubio’s home state, Rubio is losing to Trump by 20% in Florida, according to the Real Clear Politics poll averages. Since Florida is a winner-take-all state – unlike Texas - this will be a devastating blow to Rubio. If things keep going the way they are, Rubio will not win a single delegate in his home state. If this becomes the case, Rubio is toast.
This leaves Ted Cruz as the last non-Trump man standing. Can he do it? Can he go all the way? It is surely late in the day but it must be remembered that, to date, Trump has only won 80 delegates when 1,237 delegates are needed to secure the GOP nomination. In addition, because no Super Tuesday state is winner-take-all, Trump can’t win a disproportionate share of the delegates by simply coming out on top in every state. This buys Cruz some time.
Two other factors work in Cruz’s favour. First, the line of attack that Cruz and Rubio used on Trump at the last debate shows that it is possible to hit him effectively. There are many skeletons in Trump’s closet and until recently, they haven’t been touched. Being a crypto-liberal is only the most serious of those. In addition, Trump has the highest negatives among any candidate. As candidates drop out, Cruz’s hope is that more of their voters go to Cruz than Trump. Will this happen? I don’t know but I think it is within the realm of the possible.
Speaking of Ted Cruz, what should he do if he were to lose the nomination? While I don’t think Trump would offer him the VP slot, if I were advising Cruz, I would counsel him not to take it if it were offered. Cruz is a young man (age 45) and can afford to bide his time. The danger for him is becoming too closely identified with Trump. If Trump’s presidency were to become a failure, Senator Cruz would be in an ideal place four years from now to seek the nomination – but not Vice President Cruz. In any event, Trump will be 74 years old four years from now. Would there be any fight left in him any more?
None of this is sure-fire, but becoming the President of the United States is never a guaranteed prospect. Many things have to break your way. But I think if Cruz loses his time around to Trump, he can maximize his future chances if he distances himself from The Donald.