(6/13/16 NOTE: The following post, originally published in December of 2015, is an example of just how wrong you can be. When I wrote it the idea that the Republican Party would nominate such an unfit individual seemed unthinkable. It still is, but as we have tragically experienced in so many ways, sometimes the unthinkable happens.)
It’s not about Donald Trump. It never has been.
We can debate whether or not The Donald is complicit in this elaborate charade or whether he is simply an unwitting dupe of the Republican establishment. One could construct a valid argument for either case, but make no mistake about it – his candidacy is a distraction, and an intentional one.
The GOP has a problem; it’s a problem the leadership has been painfully aware of for some time. In order to secure the coveted 4-year lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue they need to bring a candidate to the general election who can garner 270 electoral votes. Neither Senator John McCain in 2008 nor Mitt Romney in 2012 were able to come even close, and both were relatively mainstream candidates with the ability to appeal to a wide spectrum of the electorate. With the dramatic rightward shift of the Republican base the party faces an impossible dilemma: in order to win the GOP nomination you have to be so far to the right of the mainstream that you have no chance of winning the general election.
An electorate that twice put Barack Obama in the White House is NOT going to elect Donald Trump.
An electorate that twice put Barack Obama in the White House is NOT going to elect Ted Cruz.
The GOP leadership knows this, and they are desperate to do something about it. The Donald Trump circus act is a desperate diversionary tactic to feed the crazy base of the party and bleed of the remainder of the extreme right-wing characters. It may not have started that way, but that’s what it has become. Watch for this: shortly after the early primaries most of the remaining candidates will start to drop out, and Trump will do something to intentionally scuttle his own campaign. Exactly what that would be remains a mystery given some of the things he has said thus far, but trust me on this one.
I’m also going to go out on a limb and tell you who I believe the GOP will nominate.
It’s a process of elimination. Ted Cruz will not have the backing of the party leadership nor the money to continue past the first few primaries unless he pulls some pretty big upsets against Donald Trump, and as long as Mr. Trump continues to out-crazy Cruz he will stay on top. Without the money and backing he can’t stay in the race for the long-haul. Christie and Kasich have neither the money nor do they appeal to the base which is energized to nominate a “real conservative”. That leaves Rubio and Jeb Bush, and while Jeb certainly has the fund-raising machine he has the same problem that Chris Christie and John Kasich have . . . they’re far too reasonable to be nominated.
Marco Rubio is movement-conservative enough to appeal to the GOP base. He gets good marks among evangelicals and may pull some of the Hispanic vote due to his heritage. He’s also reasonable enough to prevent mainstream Republicans from bolting the party en-masse . . . and of course you can bet on him sliding his message toward the center after the primaries are over.
That’s the plan.
It’s not about Donald. It never has been.
If you are among those of us who don’t want to see a Republican in the White House, Rubio is the one to watch out for.