Sunday, March 6, 2016

Voters Scratch the 35 Year Itch

I think I understand why more than a third of Republican voters are fed up with the Republican Party and are supporting Donald Trump for president (including this list of august personalities who have endorsed the man). The GOP has been paying lip service to the small government, socially conservative crowd for decades without really committing serious national resources to break the grip that the wealthy have on the party. These voters want someone who won't compromise and who will follow through on the time-tested xenophobia and intolerance that's a hallmark of this country's past. What a message.

And now they have their man. Perhaps. Saturday's caucus and primary results saw a slowing of the Trump train at the hands of none other than the candidate the party regulars despise only less so than the Donald. That would be Ted Cruz.

Be very careful what you wish for Mitt.

It's been 35 years since Ronald Reagan's election ushered in the great conservative reaction to almost 50 years of Democratic-liberal rule. As the country, and certainly the GOP, moved harder to the right and the tax cuts moved more swiftly into the hands of the already wealthy, social conservatives wanted more action.

What they got was the old country club Republican brushoff. Now the guy that built all of the country clubs wants to be president. The irony is ironic.

But the nomination is not Trump's yet. Ted Cruz is running a solid campaign and is now most likely the candidate best positioned to challenge him. The latest polls in Florida show that Marco Rubio's best presidential opportunities lie in 2020 or beyond. Once he loses his home state next week, I expect him to drop out. Likewise John Kasich, who will get a taste of backyard defeat in Michigan and follow Rubio out the door by March 16. At that point, Trump will have 165 more delegates from those winner-take-all states, but his lead will not be insurmountable if Republicans rally around Cruz. The party wants Rubio and sees both Trump and Cruz as losers in November. So the question will come down to which guy you dislike least.

Again, quite a choice.

Of course, the Democrats are feeling similarly frisky after enduring 35 years of right-leaning government programs, which is why Bernie's take-down-the-banks rhetoric is so powerful. Hillary looks downright boring by comparison, but she'll still be the nominee. I'm sure she'll add some of Sanders' best lines to her campaign repertoire to appeal to the new, young voters that are now part of the political landscape.

We might have reached a crisis point in the campaign last week, what with the seventh grade debate and Chris Christie cannonballing into the race, then looking miserable about it, but despite the backlash against Romney's jeremiad, there might be enough GOPers willing to search their souls and questions whether they really want Trump as their nominee.

The next 10 days will tell.

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