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Who Should Dems Want to Run Against, Now That It Clearly Won’t Be Marco Rubio?


With the effective collapse last night of the Marco Rubio for President campaign, combined with John Kasich going absolutely nowhere fast, the 2016 Republican race for President appears to be coming down to a two-man race between neo-fascist demagogue/bigot Donald Trump and hard-right theocratic extremist Ted Cruz. Of course, if you’re anyone other than a hard-right authoritarian, fundamentalist, extremist and/or bigot, that choice should horrify you. And it DOES appear to horrify much of the Republican “establishment,” such as it is, who utterly loathe Cruz and utterly fear Trump. But from a Democratic perspective, should we care which one of these two nuts, Cruz or Trump, wins the GOP nomination? Or should we still hold out hope for some sort of “contested” GOP convention? Here’s how I see it at this point.

  1. Ted Cruz – Given his almost complete unlikeability (note that those who know him best hate him, and it is NOT because he’s much more conservative than a lot of his Senate colleagues, a true Ken Cuccinelli/EW Jackson Republican, it’s because he’s just an odious human being), combined with his appeal almost exclusively to the extreme religious fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party Cruz should be the easiest Republican for Democrats to beat in November. In addition to Cruz’s super-narrow appeal — one which almost certainly wouldn’t extend to more traditional, pro-business, “Chamber of Commerce”-type Republicans or to independents — this oily freak also would not seem to pose a serious threat to win back any of the 26 states Barack Obama won in 2012. That would mean the Democratic nominee would start off with 332 electoral votes this fall, far more than the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, and with the potential to tack on a few more states as well (North Carolina? Arizona? Georgia? Indiana?). I’d also point to the 2013 Virginia election, in which Cruz clones Ken Cuccinelli and EW Jackson (2/3 of the “Extreme Team,” along with fellow wingnut Mark “Criminalize Miscarriages” Obenshain) got 45% of the vote each, as a possible ceiling for this guy. Finally, given that the most-likely scenario at this point whereby Cruz becomes the GOP nominee in 2016 involves some sort of “contested” convention (more on that in a minute), not a majority of delegates accrued in the GOP nominating contest, Cruz would be as divisive and weak a GOP nominee as we’ve seen in…forever? Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m kind of salivating at the thought of Republicans nominating this “wacko bird” (as Sen. John McCain correctly called him). 🙂
  2. Donald Trump – Despite (or because of?) being a dangerous bigot, neo-fascist and authoritarian, I believe that Trump actually poses a greater threat than Cruz does to actually win the presidency this November. No, I’m not saying Trump would have a good chance of winning, but at least Trump hasn’t been a consistent, hard-core, far-right-wing, theocratic extremist like Cruz. Which means two things: a) that Trump is malleable, will basically say (or profess to believe?) anything, as he doesn’t appear to have any moorings other than egomania, out-of-control narcissism, sociopathy, bigotry (or at least willingness to pander to bigots) and dictatorial tendencies; and b) Trump theoretically could have at least a CHANCE of appealing to a broader electorate than Cruz. The scary thing is that there’s actually a large audience for the vitriol, anger, hatred, and other “worst angels of our nature” stuff among tens of millions of Americans. And while a Trump nomination would undoubtedly spur HUGE turnout by Latinos, African Americans and liberal whites (particularly women) to stop him, what worries me is that millions of white, working-class “Reagan Democrats,” folks who might not turn out to vote otherwise, might enthusiastically pull the lever for Trump this November. Could that swing a few states – Ohio? Florida? even Virginia? – from the “blue” to the “red” column? Doubtful, but I’d say marginally more likely than if Cruz is the GOP nominee. Finally, we’ll see how many of the Republicans and conservatives who have vowed never to vote for Trump in November actually hold to those vows. I’m skeptical, particularly given that in 2013 here in Virginia, 45% of Republicans voted for freakin’ EW Jackson, proving that there are approximately 45% of Republicans who will literally vote for ANYONE with an “R” after their name. On the other hand, Donald Trump is about as ludicrous as they come, a bloviating blowhard who in a sane world should get no more than 0.0% of the vote. But of course, a world where Trump can be the nominee of one of two major U.S. political parties is clearly NOT a sane world, so who the hell knows???
  3. Contested convention nominates someone other than Trump or Cruz – This is actually my favorite scenario, both from a political junkie and blogger point of view, as well as from a partisan Democratic perspective. First off, this would be a vicious bloodbath, playing out for days on national TV. Can you imagine how that would look to most Americans? Second, just picture how damaged Republicans would stagger out of Cleveland this July in the aftermath of overriding the will of 70% or more of voters in Republican primaries and caucuses by not choosing either Trump or Cruz, possibly going to an “establishment” (and yes, these words are all relative) choice like Romney or Ryan — or even Rubio? That would be wild. Third, lick your chops (if you’re a Democrat or anyone who cares about your country’s future) at the thought of Donald Trump picking up his marbles and saying “screw all of you,” declaring a run as the “true” GOP nominee against the “imposter” nominee (Romney? Ryan? Rubio? other?) the party poobahs forced on everyone? It would be utter chaos, and it also would almost guarantee a landslide victory for the Democratic presidential nominee in November. On the other hand, it COULD hurt Democrats running for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives if it spurred high turnout of right-wing-leaning voters, who split for president between Trump and Romney/Ryan/Rubio/whoever, but who then vote Republican “down ballot?” In that sense, I might actually prefer option #2 over option #3.

Anyway, those are my thoughts; how about you?

P.S. I just saw a great quote on this topic: “’We’re left with a bully and a zealot,’ Republican media consultant Kim Alfano said.”

  • Kindler

    Best case scenario for Hillary is Cruz as GOP nominee and Trump as 3rd party candidate.

    I don’t envision that situation spurring GOP Congressional gains because their candidates are going to have to manuever a minefield between warring Republican factions on the one hand, while facing Dems associating them with Trump, Cruz or both, on the other.

    It’s what you calll a target-rich environment…

  • Andy Schmookler

    You’re raising the right questions here, Lowell, and you provide a good start in the search for answers. I’ve been wondering about all this, too, and I’ve not yet come to any conclusion. So what I feel ready to add to the conversation at this point is just a few points that seem to me warrant being included in the discussion that you haven’t already made.

    1) I have worries about Trump as the nominee, though that’s the outcome I’ve been rooting for for several months now, but I also have some worries about Ted Cruz. In particular, I think it should be noted that he is, by all reports, extremely intelligent in an IQ sort of way, as well as an unprincipled strategist. When he announced, everybody “in the know” (like Lawrence O’Donnell, for whom I have some respect) felt certain that his candidacy was going nowhere. Yet here he is, one of two candidates to which the original field of umpteen has been whittled down. Trump has surprised a lot of people, but so has Cruz.

    2) Cruz, I gather, was a champion debater at the college level (out of Princeton). The question of how a Democrat should prepare to debate Donald Trump would be a challenging one. But how to debate Ted Cruz has challenges of his own. His positions may be vulnerable, but Michael Jordan could get around any one of us to the basket even if you handcuffed him. So, just saying: he’s got some skills that could be dangerous and would need to be respected.

    3) I look at this election season with two main goals in mind. The first is to have a good election outcome, in terms of the Democratic nominee becoming president and in terms of the Republican power in the Congress being eroded (starting with a change of control in the Senate). But there’s another goal that I regard as really, really important: I’ve been looking for over a decade at the “destructive force” that has truly taken over the Republican Party in our times, and I would like for this election season to do MAXIMAL LASTING DAMAGE TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. Destroying that party utterly is not entirely beyond possibility (various people in the commentariat have spoken in such terms). And that would be a great blessing to the country. So part of the question to be asked is: what scenario would best serve to demolish this ugly, degraded thing that the Republican Party has become over the past generation?

    4) In that context, I think that Trump may have the best potential for doing the most damage. Cruz may be an unappealing person, but he’s house-trained. He can give an imitation of a person with decent manners. For sheer ugliness, he hardly measures up to Trump. So while Trump threatens to bring authoritarianism to the Oval Office, he also seems like a more promising wrecking ball for the GOP.

    5) I am not sure how much we can count of Cruz’s sheer obnoxiousness as a person to help us out. The reason he is so hated by his colleagues is, I believe, less about things that we can count on voters to be able to perceive and more on the complete opportunism that he has practiced in his role as Senator, to advance himself without regard to the damage he was doing to the Party. Just think about the ways he helped to drive the GOP extremist lemmings in the House to go off of various cliffs– like shutting down the government in a maneuver completely sure to accomplish nothing. Nothing, that is, but plant in the minds of the crazy right-wing base that Cruz is the guy they can count on to fight the necessary fight (never recognizing that the fight was completely hopeless from the outset). The Senators witnessing this knew full well what an opportunistic schmuck he was showing himself to be, but the average voters cannot be counted on to see through his postures and machinations.

    6) One last thought: what I fear is a convention that ends up nominating Paul Ryan. Ryan is a fraud, as Paul Krugman has said and shown repeatedly, but even the reporter-class (much less the voters) will likely see him as the serious, sane policy guys he is good at posing to be. And after the clown-show of this Republican race, Ryan will definitely look like “Here at last we have a good and sensible Republican.” I am not sure that the turmoil of the convention would do much lasting damage, if the outcome were someone like Ryan. Lincoln was a darkhorse going into the convention, but the Party united behind him when none of the major contenders could get over the top.

    Anyway, just some thoughts to add to the mix.

  • Di Read

    Tee-hee–I heard Ted referred to as a “Cruz Missal” on another blog. Nothing funny about that guy, though. If he were Prez the Spanish Inquisition would no longer be hiding behind the tool shed–it would be in the White House!

    Enjoyed your speculations, lowkell, and like you I’d opt for Scenario No. 2. I sometimes wake up screaming in the night at the thought of a brokered Rethug convention and Paul Ryan emerging as the nominee! Can you imagine HIM in the White House?

    • Nope, can’t deal with the thought of Ayn Rand-worshipping right wingnut Lyin’ Ryan as Speaker of the House, let alone President of the United States!

  • True Blue

    We’ve also had this debate in my house – I am rooting for Cooch’s Theocratic Cuckoo but my spouse thinks the Drumpfin’ Idiot would be the easy target!

  • Brendan

    Cruz is a sure fire dud in the general for reasons you state. He’s just an unlikable person. Definitely my preferred choice of opponents.

    Trump, for all his craziness, is a potentially dangerous candidate. The assumption that there just aren’t enough morons to elect him, isn’t a bet i’d make.