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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Would a Cruz-Rubio unity ticket have stopped Trump?

It’s only been a week since the Indiana primary and Ted Cruz’s exit from the Republican presidential nomination race last Tuesday night, but already we’re getting little snapshots of information from months ago that helps us understand how Donald Trump was able to defy the odds and end up the almost certain party nominee.

One of the more interesting recent tidbits concerns a potential Ted Cruz/Marco Rubio “unity” ticket that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubioapparently was offered from the former to the latter in early March, but the Florida senator didn’t act on it.

Jake Tapper of CNN reports, “Top officials of the Cruz campaign are convinced there is one specific step that could have stopped Trump -- and they blame Sen. Marco Rubio for not taking that step.

“In early March, it became clear that Trump was well on his way to the nomination and would even likely defeat Rubio in his home state of Florida's March 15 primary. According to several sources close to Cruz, the Cruz campaign conducted several secret polls to see what the impact would be if Rubio joined Cruz as his running mate, with Cruz at the top of the ticket.”

The polls revealed a Cruz-Rubio “unity” ticket would defeat Trump handily in all the states where they were conducted (Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri and Arizona). There’s no way Trump, at that time, could muster the support necessary to defeat a two-pronged attack from the mid-forties aged Cuban American senators.

Looking back, the scenario seems entirely plausible. Ted Cruz had just won three Super Tuesday contests (in his home state of Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska) and had finished a close second to Trump in a number of other states. His delegate lead over Rubio was enough to make it clear Cruz was the one to take on Trump one-on-one at the top of the ticket.

Meanwhile, Rubio only had one victory – in the insignificant Minnesota caucuses – and was trailing Trump in every Florida poll by a wide margin.

Therefore, there really was no path forward for Rubio under any scenario. As we all know now, he stayed in the race until after the Florida primary and then announced early in the evening on March 15 that he was through.

A number of conservative anti-Trump commentators were all but begging Cruz and Rubio to team up before that day. Erick Erickson of The Resurgent wrote, “It is time for Rubio to accept he will not be the nominee. He keeps telling us he will pay the bill tomorrow, but tomorrow has not yet come and he is behind by double digits in his home state.

“It is time for Ted Cruz to accept we need a unity ticket and for Rubio to agree to be Cruz’s Vice Presidential pick, uniting the outsider and insider factions of the party and stopping Trump in the process.”

This is where it gets sticky. The Cruz people are saying they couldn’t reach Rubio directly on the phone and intermediaries said he showed no interest in any potential deal. Meanwhile, the Rubio people claim Marco didn’t think such a ticket would be successful and that combining two freshman Cuban-American senators would just play into Trump’s “outsider” narrative in any case.

The Marco backers are also adding that a firm deal was never really offered by Cruz. I don’t know if the Cruz campaign was fueling the “unity” ticket idea simultaneously with the conservatives calling for the arrangement, but it seems a little fishy Erickson and several others all came to the same conclusion that it should happen at roughly the same time.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, this was also the approximate beginning point for #NeverTrump. It’s yet another clue that some were trying to push Cruz and Rubio together.

Based on the respective behavior of Cruz and Rubio, I’m inclined to trust Ted’s side of the story on this one. He had already won four states (including Iowa) after Super Tuesday, had superior fundraising numbers and a ground game that had proven effective in boosting his vote total.

Therefore, it certainly made sense that Cruz would head the “unity” ticket. Rubio’s refusal to go along with it looks more like sour grapes than anything else, especially since the Florida senator was consistently evasive towards the subject of endorsing Cruz in subsequent weeks.

And when Cruz proved more than capable of winning states on his own after March 15, it no longer made sense to include Rubio on the ticket.

All along there were numerous reports of how Rubio had said Cruz was the last conservative standing and he wasn’t backing Trump, but no official word came that an endorsement was forthcoming. Mark Levin even interviewed Marco Rubio on Levin’s new TV program, where Rubio made it clear Cruz was the better choice.

We don’t really need to go into the merits of a potential Cruz/Rubio ticket because if it had come to pass, I probably wouldn’t have supported the idea (figuring Cruz could do just as well on his own in a one-on-one with Trump). But if there was solid polling evidence that such teamwork could have stopped Trump, then it’s hard to tell how Rubio can explain his way out of this matter other than to say he just didn’t want to play second fiddle to Cruz.

(For what it’s worth, Rubio says he doesn’t want to be Trump’s VP either.)

Two months later, Donald Trump is on his way to Cleveland as the almost certain nominee, the #NeverTrump people are as adamant as ever that they’ll avoid Trump like the plague and Republicans face the real possibility of losing to Hillary Clinton in November because of it.

Ah, what might have been. Both Cruz and Rubio owe us an explanation…hopefully it will emerge in the coming days.

After Trump, the RNC likely to tweak the GOP nominating process

The aftermath of every election cycle brings with it a fairly extensive review process and calls to improve the way presidential candidates are nominated, but I’m confident this one in particular will prove to be more than just the typical internal murmurs to fix things.

Donald Trump’s ability to win the Republican nomination despite not having won a majority of the vote in any state until April 19 has got a lot of people up in arms about the GOP’s “rigged” system that favors early frontrunners.

Leon H. Wolf of RedState writes, “RNC members are looking at massive, wholesale changes to the GOP primary system after the 2016 farce resulted in the nomination of Donald Trump. The new rules put into place this year were specifically designed to avoid a result like 2012, where front runner Mitt Romney faced an unexpectedly brutal and embarrassing battle. To avoid protracted insurgency candidacies, the GOP tweaked the delegate rules to almost overwhelmingly favor the early frontrunner...

“At the end of the day, it would be a huge benefit to the whole process if the entire process were blown up in favor of a randomized early calendar among geographically diverse areas of the country. But if that can’t happen, then at least we can be spared the yearly debacle of the Nevada caucus, which is probably the worst run in the country.”

It is true, the Nevada caucus appears to have lost favor with the Republican poohbahs and will likely be removed from its “early voting state” status.

But I’m not sure that switching the order of the states voting this year would have made all that much of a difference in the outcome, at least in regards to Trump. Ted Cruz managed to win in Iowa, as did Rick Santorum four years ago and Mike Huckabee in 2008, and it didn’t prevent the eventual winner from gathering all the momentum necessary to win.

If anything, the Republicans would have benefitted this year from more of a Democrat “super-delegate” system where delegates are apportioned proportionally in the states and party activists automatically get a vote as well. In this case, the not-Trump folks would have had much more of a say in the nomination process.

Instead, the Republicans are stuck with a nominee who has totaled about 40 percent of the total vote.

But no system is perfect. Just like tweaking the vaunted Augusta National Golf Club didn’t make it “Tiger-proof,” there’s no way to fix a system to prevent what happened this year. Trump won in all geographic regions and among all Republican constituencies. He won in open primaries. He won in closed primaries.

Unless you completely take the vote out of the hands of the people, you get the same result. And if you did that, then there wouldn’t be much of a political party to begin with.

Momentum usually plays a larger role in the nominating cycle, which makes this year all the more unique. Even when Trump lost momentum, he was able to pick it up elsewhere. I’m not sure how re-arranging the nominating calendar would have changed things.

Now that he’s won, the media’s shifting to anti-Trump

For the better part of the past ten months, there was always an “enemy” for Donald Trump to attack. The billionaire realty TV star and presumptive Republican nominee constantly made hay over cutting down his rivals. His supporters ate it up, they turned out in droves to vote for him – and the rest is history.

But now that “low energy” Jeb Bush and “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz are no longer potential threats to Trump, he’s turned his attention towards Hillary Clinton and the very same media that all-but handed him billions in free airtime to help his campaign.

Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Donald Trump is opening his general election campaign the same way he started his primary bid and continued for the majority of the past year: by putting his haters — especially in the media — on blast.

“A week after vanquishing his 16th and final Republican rival en route to the party’s nomination, Trump is still in battle mode. From hitting the media for allegedly misrepresenting his policy proposals to defending his personal and pointed attacks on the Clintons, the Manhattan real-estate mogul is throwing everything against the wall. And rather than reach out to unify a GOP that is deeply divided over his candidacy, he dismissed the very idea as irrelevant.”

The media’s sudden shift to Trump-attack mode was foreseen literally since day one of the campaign. Media talkers rarely hit Trump directly, and if they did, it was more of an oblique blow meant to soften any potential retorts from the ratings-generator himself.

Now that they no longer “need him,” they’re throwing Trump to the lions.

It’s clear by now that Trump needs antagonism to get him going. He should get plenty of that in facing Hillary Clinton, but if he continues to pound on members of his own party every time something doesn’t go his way, he’ll never be able to unite the warring factions.

Sooner or later, he’ll get the message. But will it be too late?

Cruz will still make his presence known at the convention – over the party platform

Finally today, Ted Cruz will not be accepting the Republican nomination for president in two months at the Republican National Convention, but he will still have a presence there and through his delegates, will most assuredly have a say in the party platform.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “Loyalists to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are planning to assert their power on the GOP convention committees to block any changes to the party platform from Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee.

“Ken Cuccinelli, who had been in charge of winning delegates for Cruz before he dropped out of the White House race, sent an email to delegates allies inviting them to a Monday evening conference call to discuss the strategy, according to The New York Times.”

Far from hanging his head and going home after losing the nomination race, Cruz is proving to be every bit of the principled fighter that he showed during his year on the campaign trail.

Cruz realizes there is more to the process than just winning the nomination. The battle over ideas and principles is never-ending, especially when you’ve got an ideologically malleable “deal maker” like Trump as the nominee.

The Texas senator returns to the senate today. We haven’t heard the last from Ted Cruz.

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Cruz/rubio ticket.

NO!
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rubio was an open borders supporter of amnesty, let's sell American citizenship to illegal alien invaders by making them pay a fine, (same as jeb bush).
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As far as I am concerned he is not even a citizen of America. Neither of his parents were American citizens when he was born.
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The 14th Amendment is a perfect example of what happens when compromise is used to get a bill passed or in this case an Amendment passed. Original intent was to insure the former slaves were considered American citizens with full rights but ended up supposedly including anyone born on American soil.

Rubio+X=defeat

Rubio had several chances to back immigration law reform and move away from the immigration law perversion he supported in 2013 and 2014 (e.g. S744 & I-squared), but he persists.

OTOH, Ted Cruz was great on the budget, great on ObummerDoesn'tCare, great on religious liberty, very good on the 2nd amendment, OK on taxes and trade,... and squishy and untrustworthy on border security, ending visa waivers, implementing exit tracking and background investigations of visa applicants, reducing numbers of student and guest-work and permanent legal resident (green card) visas to reasonable and manageable levels. When Cruz stood up for or against something in the senate, I was cheering him on and urging and hoping other Republicans from both houses (McConnell, Boehner, Canter, Lee, Paul, Sessions...) would enthusiastically work with him. But the RINOs all stood back, aghast, instead, and the losership actively opposed the good and the right every time.

Trump has talked an excellent game but is untrustworthy across the board.

Scott Walker seemed good and only a little untrustworthy. But he failed to press his case clearly, emphatically, robustly, early, often, consistently. Because he didn't press his case, he generated no enthusiasm, and no enthusiasm meant the antagonistic media could withhold coverage, and those things meant there was no money.

I could see a Scott Walker + Cruz, Cruz + Walker, Cruz + Fiorina, Cruz + Carson, Cruz + Bachmann, Cruz + Palin ticket. But not Rubio + anyone, nor anyone + Rubio.