Has anyone yet started a super PAC to do nothing but ship cases of Tums to Republican officials? If not, you might be missing one heck of a grifting – er, I mean business opportunity.
With Donald Trump having held such an enormous lead in the polls for the last few months, much of the action among his rivals now revolves around jockeying for position to take advantage of his inevitable fall. (Really! We swear it will happen any minute now!) Right now Ted Cruz seems to be winning that battle.
As Politico reports, this has the GOP’s power brokers more skittish than a chihuahua in a thunderstorm. The piece is filled with both on- and off-the-record quotes from Republican Senators explaining their anxieties. The major reason is also an obvious one, which is the senators’ belief that Marco Rubio, currently running just ahead of Cruz in national polling averages, is more electable next fall when the voters will be more moderate than the deranged howler monkeys who will turn out for the GOP primary and are currently keeping Trump at 35 percent.
The less obvious reason for supporting Rubio over Cruz, and one understandably not stated openly, is that all of his Senate colleagues think he's an asshole. And the feeling is more than mutual:
Cruz scoffed at the notion that Rubio is more electable, telling POLITICO that that’s precisely the logic that paved the way for Democrats to win five of the past six popular votes for the White House.
“Democrats also told Republicans Bob Dole was more electable, Democrats also told the press John McCain was more electable, Democrats also told the press Mitt Romney was more electable,” Cruz said. “Then the Democrats were quite happy to go to their inauguration balls."
Cruz is openly showing his disdain for the GOP’s powerbrokers. And it’s working with voters. As Ben Carson’s poll numbers have plunged like Skylab over the last month, Cruz has likely been the biggest beneficiary, picking up more of the evangelicals who have abandoned the retired neurosurgeon. The Huffington Post’s tally of national polling averages has him one point behind Rubio and two behind Carson. (Real Clear Politics averages have him basically tied with Rubio, but seven points behind Carson.)
Rubio is doing well in the “invisible primary,” having picked up a number of endorsements in recent weeks. Insiders tell Politico more will be coming in December, and based on the officials quoted in the story, it’s only a matter of time before party insiders start giving him even more full-throated support. But they are cautious about it, telling Politico “endorsements from top GOP lawmakers at this point in the primary wouldn’t help Rubio’s cause with the Republican base.”
This is amazing. Leaders of one of our two major parties are so terrified of riling up their base that they will not openly endorse the candidate they all believe gives them the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton next November.
Meanwhile, Cruz has reportedly built a very strong on-the-ground campaign apparatus to get out the vote in the early primary states. While the Rubio campaign, in what may turn out to be a misguided effort to borrow an MBA buzzword and stay “nimble,” has been so cheap it makes a fetish of using whatever free wi-fi it can scrounge up to conduct its operations. If I was a GOP official, I’d be much more worried about Rubio’s ability to run a modern campaign on the national level. He’s likely to be in the race for awhile.
Assuming Carson’s support continues evaporating, by the start of voting on February 1, two of the GOP’s top three contenders will be candidates who openly loathe the GOP establishment and the party’s elected officials in the national legislature and often belittle them as RINOs, losers, and liberal squishes. No wonder Republican leaders are going to need Tums to make it through the next few months.