By Alex Knepper
The three remaining not-Trump Republican candidates have reached a deal: Marco Rubio is encouraging his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich, Kasich is encouraging his supporters in Florida to vote for Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz is remaining neutral and standing down in each of those states.
Given that Rubio and Kasich are perpetual losers who, combined, are still lagging Cruz in the delegate and states-won count by a hefty margin, a fair-minded observer might wonder what they are still doing in the race at all. Cruz supporters — who, in case we need reminding, actively want Cruz to win rather than just wanting to stop Trump — may question why they are being asked to rally around these losers rather than the losers being asked to rally around Cruz. It is an especially perplexing question if we assume that Rubio and Kasich’s primary goal is to put their principles first and stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination.
As I said last week, if Rubio really cared first of all about stopping Donald Trump, he should have dropped out after Super Tuesday. If Rubio had dropped out then — without endorsing a candidate — he’d have been out more-or-less in time to keep early votes for him in Florida from coming in, hand Kasich a surefire win in Ohio, and give people two weeks to rally around Cruz in Florida. Then, after Kasich won Ohio, he would drop out and endorse Cruz with Rubio. But it’s time to dispel with this notion that Rubio has an equal chance in Florida as Kasich does in Ohio. Rubio’s home-state advantage has always been overstated — he’s been down by double-digits since Trump first catapulted to the top of the polls — and, judging by the humiliating results of Super Tuesday and the March 8th contests, Rubio is not nationally viable. There ain’t no ‘establishment lane.’ Yet, here we are: because of Rubio’s ambition and vanity, Kasich is still an underdog in Ohio, and Florida is as likely as it was a month ago to fall into Trump’s column.
So why is Rubio still in the race? Because he is not actually concerned with stopping Trump. Rather, he is concerned with remaining viable for what would probably be a vice-presidential offer at a brokered convention, which will only be likely if he manages to collect several hundred delegates. He has essentially held the GOP hostage in Florida: as long as he is still in the race, his built-in home-state advantage ensures that nobody not named Trump can surpass him there, forcing everyone else to rally around him if they want to deny Trump the state’s 99 delegates.
There’s nothing sinister about politicians acting out of self-interest — but I don’t want to hear these fraudulent pieties about how they are concerned primarily with stopping Trump.