Donald Trump is expected to dominate Republican primary voting today, but thanks to a fractured field, Super Tuesday doesn’t have the potential to be as decisive as the Democratic equivalent.
If the polls hold true and Trump continues to ride a heady combination of white identity politics and economic nationalism to victory, conservative #NeverTrump true-believers can look to a few signs to convince them that it’s not too late to rally behind a viable alternate for the GOP nomination.
Cruz re-enacts the Alamo
One thing is clear: The Republican establishment hates Texas senator Ted Cruz almost as much as they hate Trump. To their delight, his campaign has been floundering since he underperformed in South Carolina, which seemed tailor-made for his coalition of evangelicals and Tea Party “liberty” voters. That result and a tie in Nevada has cast doubts on his overall campaign, underscoring his dependence on today’s primaries in many southern states.
But Trump haters shouldn’t be rooting for a Cruz collapse. They need him to win his home state of Texas to help hold off Trump, who has been closing in on the state’s delegate bonanza. It’s sort of an Alamo scenario: Anti-Trump forces will lose the battle today but win the greater war, thanks to Cruz’s valiant but ultimately suicidal last stand to defend the Lone Star state.
Rubio gains traction
The number one hope for #NeverTrump: Some combination of Trump’s KKK flirtation, Republican endorsements of Marco Rubio, and Rubio’s transformation into an insult comic will allow him to exceed polling expectations. Besides garnering delegates in big states like Georgia and Texas, any sign that he can build an anti-Trump coalition—especially among college-educated voters—would be a big win.
Most importantly, it will boost the pressure on other candidates to drop out ahead of crucial votes on March 15—particularly in Rubio’s home state of Florida and the Republican bellwether of Ohio—that will likely decide the nominee.
Kasich (and Carson) drop out
Ohio Governor John Kasich seems intent on staying in until his state votes in the middle of March, but the number-crunchers fear that a delay in winnowing the field will allow Trump to build an insurmountable lead of delegates in the early contests. Any conservative hoping that Trump isn’t the Republican nominee had best hope Kasich, with his determined if outdated pitch of compassionate conservatism, and Carson, the doddering physician, take the hint soon.