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Fetch and Carry

I hate to throw cold water on Ross Douthat’s pundit fantasy [1] – Rubio getting Kasich out of the way by offering him the VP slot – but . . . wouldn’t that be a huge gift to Ted Cruz? And isn’t Cruz Rubio’s biggest worry over the next week?

Think about it. Cruz is positioned as Mr. Solid Gold Conservative in the race. Kasich is running as a self-proclaimed relative moderate. If Rubio offered Kasich the VP slot, he’d be playing right into Cruz’s script. “He betrayed us with the Gang of Eight – and now he’s offered the Vice Presidency to a man who supports Obamacare. What other conservative causes will he betray if we give him the keys to the White House?” Is that really the message he wants out there going into Super Tuesday?

That’s apart from the fact that an overture to Kasich makes Rubio look weak, like somebody who can’t win on his own . . . and there isn’t much of an answer to that charge because it’s true! Rubio can’t win on his own! That’s the premise of Douthat’s column!

And it’s also unnecessary given the geography of the upcoming contests. Kasich has basically abandoned the fight for the majority of Super Tuesday states. He’s not going to be a major factor in Georgia, Oklahoma, or Arkansas – all states where Rubio has polled very competitively in the past month. He may try to make himself a factor in Virginia or Minnesota, two other states where Rubio has polled if anything even more competitively – but so what? Kasich was polling at 2% in Minnesota a month ago, when Rubio was polling in the lead. If Rubio’s stock drops, and Kasich rises to, I don’t know – 10%? – how exactly is that a knock on Kasich, as opposed to an indication that Rubio just can’t close the sale?

Rubio has a path to the nomination. It involves winning at least a handful of states that are effectively three-person races between himself, Trump and Cruz, in Super Tuesday states where the terrain is far from unfavorable for him. If there’s a real split on Super Tuesday, with Cruz winning, say, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, Rubio winning Virginia, Minnesota and Georgia, and Trump winning Massachusetts, Vermont, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama – then even though Trump will be the clear delegate leader, there will be three viable candidates. Kasich will collapse, and Rubio can go into the big winner-take-all contests on March 15th having made a credible case for his candidacy – and a far more-credible one than Cruz will have. It’s really not clear to me why Rubio needs to drive Kasich out of the race to make that scenario happen. On the contrary – what he needs to do is out-hustle Cruz, and make a strong case for his own candidacy in forums that are naturally more favorable to a quite conservative candidate like Rubio than states like Ohio and Illinois that Kasich is counting on – but that won’t vote until March 15th.

Here’s the thing: there is no anti-Trump vote to be consolidated. There’s an anti-establishment vote that Trump has consolidated. That vote is not a majority – but the remainder is not so unified in its loathing of Trump that Rubio would magically win a majority if other candidates would just step aside and let him win. Even if Rubio’s plan is the be the Republican Dukakis – the perfectly acceptable candidate who first beats the other acceptable candidates and then beats the unacceptable candidates – he can only get there by actually beating them.

So seriously: stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen. Unless he makes it happen himself.


12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Fetch and Carry"

#1 Comment By Adam Rosenthal On February 22, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

Does he have to announce it now though? Can’t they make a back-room deal and then announce it at the normal time, once he’s won the nomination? Or is that asking too much trust from Kasich?

Also… Noah, what would you do for material without Douthat? 😉

#2 Comment By Thomas Knapp On February 22, 2016 @ 6:42 pm

A Kasich/Rubio ticket would at least make some sense. A Rubio/Kasich ticket makes no sense at all.

A nine-term US Representative and two-term governor of Ohio does not play second fiddle to a junior US Senator with no prior national political experience. Not even if that junior Senator is from Florida.

#3 Comment By William Burns On February 22, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

While I see the logic of your position, Mr. Knapp, allow me to refute it with two words: Obama/Biden.

#4 Comment By cecelia On February 22, 2016 @ 10:03 pm

Douthat is having so much trouble coping with the meltdown of the imaginary conservative party he thought the Republicans were.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On February 22, 2016 @ 11:03 pm

I’m with Knapp. Obama-Biden was a product of two things – Obama’s race and opposition to the Iraq War, both of which made him catnip to the Democratic Party in 2008. Rubio holds no such appeal to Republicans in 2016. If he did he would not be trailing Donald Trump in every poll.

If Kasich is the nominee, and he is the Republicans best chance to win November, not because he is “moderate”, but because he is the sanest of the “conservatives” in the race, it will not help him to add a hothead like Rubio to his ticket. Better to go to one who represents a different wing of the party – if not Rand Paul, one who identifies with him, perhaps J.C. Watts or John Hostettler.

#6 Comment By Analyst On February 23, 2016 @ 12:05 am

Is there any real reason to pay the least bit of attention to Douthat or the rest of the reformocons? They have been living in a fool’s paradise ever since they began their little adventure of bringing something resembling reasoned policy to the Republican party. They are so detached from the realities of the party that they have become pathetic. Ignore them, except for comic relief as the Republicans morph into the American National Socialist Party.

#7 Comment By Uncle Billy On February 23, 2016 @ 8:45 am

Cruz is whip smart and quite ruthless. He is not going to bow out for Rubio. Rubio is essentially a not so bright, empty suit, who will carry water for the Neocons and the billionaires, thus their support of him. He is in way over his head and Trump and Cruz will chop him to pieces. Very few people like Cruz, but I suspect he will come out on top, as he is able to think 3 or 4 moves ahead on the political chessboard, whereas Rubio can only do what he is told, not really think. He freezes up when forced to think on his feet and just keeps repeating talking points. He is a male version of Sarah Palin. The problem may be however, a Neocon robot may actually do well with much of the electorate, who is not very bright themselves.

#8 Comment By collin On February 23, 2016 @ 9:28 am

Ross even described this as “Something!” and I would argue has the ticket backwards. Kaisch resume and experience is much better than Rubio and the support VP slot seems very ideal for Marco Rubio at this point anyway. (He still comes across as the swarthy young business executive who says all the right things but accomplished little.)

Also if the Republicans were able to get Cruz to drop out today, Trump would take Texas and 11 other states next week. Rubio can’t make that comeback.

#9 Comment By Tbot On February 24, 2016 @ 1:21 am

My mother and I are of the opinion that Trump doesn’t believe most of the drivel that comes out of his mouth. But there are a lot of people who do believe it, which is why he says it and why he’s winning. Unfortunately, Rubio already has the Marcobot label, and he’s done nothing to shake it. Cruz is undeniably a jerk, and doesn’t seem to care. Rubio will be lucky to take out one of them. Both of them? Not a chance.

#10 Comment By bacon On February 24, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

An interesting division of Super Tuesday results, but where is the evidence that Rubio or Cruz can win more than one state each, if even that?

#11 Comment By NWinTweener On February 24, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

Trump’s narcissism will prevent him from fulfilling his outrageous promises, which are legion, if by some chance, God forbid, he becomes POTUS. He needs and expects everyone to love him. As for me, not being a conservative per se, but admire and respect this blog as voice of real conservative values, not the Faux kind, the most electable candidates have left: Graham, Bush and Paul.

#12 Comment By Harry Ryan On February 25, 2016 @ 6:53 pm

I think that Kasich as presidential nominee and Rubio as vp nominee would constitute the GOP dream team.

Kasich is the most experienced candidate running, having served in the Congress for decades (including a stint as House Budget Committee Chairman) and was elected Ohio Governor twice, the second time so overwhelmingly that a large percentage of Democrats, including many labor union members, voted for him. He’s very bright, very likable, and has proven to be able to work well with Democrats.

Rubio is young and a bit unqualified, but a term or two as vice-president would definitely mature him if he again sought the Presidency. And his place on the ticket would draw many Latinos away from the Democrats – perhaps just enough to make a make the crucial difference in a close election.

Most importantly from an electoral standpoint, a Kasich- Rubio ticket would virtually guarantee winning Ohio and Florida, two of the most crucial states.