The Ongoing Woes of the ‘Establishment’
Philip Diehl explains that Rubio doesn’t seem likely to win many races and has run out of time to stop Trump anyway:
The landscape is unrelentingly bleak for Rubio. He is even at risk of being knocked out of the race by Kasich. If Kasich beats or stays close to him in the establishment-friendly states voting before March 15, Kasich could gain momentum and overtake Trump in Ohio. If Rubio is unable to close Trump’s 18-point lead in Florida, Kasich might emerge as Trump’s only marginally viable rival after March 15.
That would be a fitting end to a failed campaign, since Rubio’s “strategy” has depended excessively on having other candidates help him by dropping out or collapsing at the right time. As I thought he might, Kasich has refused to play along, and as Diehl makes clear he has no reason to do so unless he can’t win Ohio. It would be amusing if the candidate that so many party leaders and donors wanted out of the race stays in for many weeks after their favorite is compelled to drop out because of an inability to win anywhere. It should also tell them that they backed the wrong candidate all along. It is also likely that later blue-state primaries are even less hospitable to Rubio’s reheated Bushism, so that his best chance of competing has always been in the contests being held tomorrow. Since he is on track to lose almost everywhere tomorrow, that confirms how limited Rubio’s appeal as a presidential candidate has been from the start.
Diehl has previously described the rules for delegate allocation that I talked about earlier this month, and those rules rigged the contest to benefit the front-runner after the early contests. Even if the “establishment” vote had been united behind one candidate weeks ago, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome in South Carolina or Nevada, and it wouldn’t make much of a difference in tomorrow’s elections. There simply isn’t that much of an “establishment”-friendly vote in this election, and that accounts for some of the struggles that all of the “establishment” candidates have had. Besides, none of the “establishment” candidates can count on all of the “establishment” vote going to them, not least since the voters aren’t choosing candidates based on the “lanes” that we assign to their candidates.
No matter who remains in the race after mid-March, both “establishment” candidates were already out of time to stop Trump weeks ago. It doesn’t matter which “establishment” candidate is left standing after March 15, because neither of them has enough support to keep Trump from being the nominee. At that point, the candidates that stay in the race will be positioning themselves to claim “runner-up” status for the next cycle. Rubio’s main effect on the race may end up being that he ensured that Kasich rather than Cruz will be the one in a position to make that claim.