03.09.2016 0

Marcomentum heads south. Is Rubio finished?

MarcoRubio

By Rick Manning

It was a big night for Donald Trump as he won another victory in the Deep South proving his brash New York style has sustained its appeal among conservative voters, while at the same time rolling to victories in Michigan and Hawaii, attracting voters through his no-nonsense attack on bad trade deals like the just negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Senator Ted Cruz placed second in Mississippi and beat Ohio Governor John Kasich in a tightly fought contest for second in Michigan.  A state where Cruz’ team reportedly spent less than two thousand dollars.  The brightest spot for Cruz was his first place finish in the Idaho primary.

Kasich was hoping for some late magic in Michigan to provide momentum heading into the winner take all March 15, Ohio primary, where the Governor must win to maintain even a whisper of hope in his disappearing window of opportunity.  The third place finish is more than disappointing, it is devastating, as the Rust Belt anti-Trump firewall that he hoped to establish failed to materialize.

And the big loser of the evening was the man who could not afford the appearance of being a dead in the water candidate heading into his winner take all home state of Florida primary — Senator Marco Rubio.

Rubio, who has translated down the track finishes as momentum in the past, will have a hard time convincing donors and voters that he has a pathway to victory after finishing dead last among active candidates in both Michigan and Mississippi, not breaking into double digits in either race.  On the bright side for Rubio, he beat Kasich in Idaho with ballots, giving him one of his coveted third place finishes, which he has touted as success in the past.  Perhaps someone should explain to him that just because third place finishers get a Bronze medal in the Olympics, they still lost to two other competitors.

The telegenic Floridian now must hope that his home field knowledge of his state’s campaign law has allowed him to bank enough early votes through absentee ballots to help him overcome what the RealClearPolitics.com poll averages show to be a 16 point Trump lead. Perhaps most disastrously for Rubio, his last place finishes in the two biggest primaries held last evening will likely cause his #neverTrump big dollar donors to look elsewhere for a savior, increasing the likelihood that Mitt Romney will enter into the fray — effectively ending Rubio’s bid and perhaps his once promising political career.

It was Romney who jumped into the presidential race with both feet last week calling out Trump in terms much harsher than any he ever used on Barack Obama in 2012 with the ironic, yet predictable result that Trump got a boost in the polls.

But any Romney play will be simply an attempt to deny Trump the delegates needed to win on a first ballot at the GOP convention in Cleveland, in the hopes that a second ballot, where delegates are not compelled to vote for the candidate who the people selected, will produce a more establishment friendly nominee.

Before any of that can occur, the candidates head to Miami, Florida for what promises to be the most important debate in Marco Rubio’s career, as he attempts to keep his flagging campaign afloat.  Desperate and on his home turf, Rubio’s only hope is to consolidate the anti-Trump GOP vote under his banner and deny the New York City real estate magnate a victory.

Of course, if Rubio really wanted to deny Trump a win in Florida, he would step aside and endorse his Senate colleague Ted Cruz, who could mount an effective mano y mano challenge against Trump, and doesn’t suffer from the stench of constant defeat.  But ego, and the establishment’s fear and loathing of Cruz has already put the lie to the dump Trump effort, as they continue to delude themselves that they can find a pathway to not lose control of the nomination to the rabble that they despise.

One thing seems clear after the Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho results, the GOP nomination is Trump’s to lose and the only person who can deny him is Texas’ Ted Cruz — an outcome that reinforces the reality that no matter how much the D.C. establishment hates the GOP base, the GOP base hates them more.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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