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Most roads lead to Rubio, but…

Structurally, Marco Rubio has all the advantages. That might not be enough.

Much of the last year in politics has been consumed by discussion over the Republican nomination. The story that a lot of us expected to be reading–about Jeb Bush battling whatever insurgent tried to knock him down–has been replaced by all Donald Trump, all the time. The nice thing, though, is that 2015 has very little bearing on the results of caucuses and primaries. (Three weeks before the Iowa caucus in 2012, the eventual winner was pulling around 5 percent in polling. It would be foolhardy to suggest that the same thing is likely to happen in 2016, but it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility.) So, much of the coverage in 2015 has been like covering Spring Training in baseball; maybe you’ll see something on the field that’s useful, but you’re really most interested in evaluating the injuries and the makeup of the various teams rather than the polls themselves.

But the regular season is about to begin, and it’s useful to take stock of where we are as the actual voting gets underway.

In a valuable piece at The Weekly Standard, Jay Cost wrote about the role of momentum, noting:

If a candidate whom most of the party likes—or at least does not dislike—wins an early contest, it is a decent bet that he or she will develop some momentum. Think of John Kerry after his victory in Iowa in 2004, George W. Bush after his South Carolina triumph in 2000, and Ronald Reagan after New Hampshire in 1980. The parties were basically content with these men as their candidates and were happy to follow the signals sent by the early states. If, on the other hand, a party is internally divided, momentum can stall as factions balk at accepting the choice of the other factions. Think of Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Barack Obama in 2008. All three had momentum at one point or another in the contests, but they could not sustain it in the face of lukewarm support (or outright opposition) from certain factions.

To Cost, momentum comes from broad acceptability; a candidate that can appeal to broad sections of the party is more likely to get support as people’s top choices bow out.

In the era of competitive, binding primaries and caucuses, there is a very stable pattern in Republican primaries and caucuses: one candidate wins Iowa, a different candidate wins New Hampshire, and one of those two candidates gets the nomination. This pattern has been remarkably stable across primaries where there was no Republican incumbent running.

IowaNew HampshireSouth CarolinaNominee
1980George H.W. BushRonald ReaganRonald ReaganRonald Reagan
1988Bob DoleGeorge H.W. BushGeorge H.W. BushGeorge H.W. Bush
1996Bob DolePat BuchananBob DoleBob Dole
2000George W. BushJohn McCainGeorge W. BushGeorge W. Bush
2008Mike HuckabeeJohn McCainJohn McCainJohn McCain
2012Rick SantorumMitt RomneyNewt GingrichMitt Romney

Generally speaking, one of Iowa or New Hampshire produces a winner that the party establishment can support. That candidate gets the necessary “momentum” and consolidates support across later contests, and the Republicans get a nominee. Usually, the nominee is apparent by South Carolina.

There are two developments in the broader history of the Republican Party, though, that complicate this year.

First, it seems that the “anti-establishment” may finally have more voters than the “establishment” within Republican politics. Indeed, as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry pointed out last March, combined, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich got more votes than Mitt Romney in several primaries after New Hampshire. In other words, the typical consolidation around an establishment candidate didn’t really happen; the only reason Romney won is because the “insurgent” vote was hopelessly split. (In a standard consolidation scenario, Romney would have won South Carolina, as the pattern goes. He did not; instead, he got thumped there.)

Second, in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the current field leaders (Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, respectively) are broadly unacceptable to wide swaths of the party. With Cost’s discussion of momentum in mind, the expected consolidation around one of those two candidates, if both win their early contests, may not happen. In fact, almost every candidate is not acceptable to a significant chunk of the party:

  • Donald Trump is opposed by country-club Republicans, limited-government types, and traditional conservatives.
  • Ted Cruz is opposed by most elected Republicans and the party establishment.
  • John Kasich and Chris Christie are opposed by conservatives and the Tea Party.
  • (Currently) Jeb Bush is opposed by everybody (except rich donors and family friends).

Which is to say: none of those candidates is a lock to gain momentum after early successes because of the wide swaths of the party that they have alienated. Going into the race, there were really seven candidates who plausibly could have made a play for the center of the party this time around: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio. Romney and Ryan sat out. Jeb Bush completely crashed and burned; if he wins, it will simply be by virtue of being the last man standing after a sustained carpet-bombing operation. (Among Republicans, Jeb Bush has a 52 percent unfavorable rating. 52 percent!)  No one was receptive to Rick Perry’s message. Bobby Jindal never got off the ground. And Scott Walker ran an absolutely inept operation.

The only candidate left who is making a play for the broad middle of the Republican Party is Marco Rubio. Sure, anti-immigration Republicans dislike Rubio, but Rubio came up through the Tea Party and still has some support there; he is much more broadly acceptable to factions of the party than Cruz or Christie. Meanwhile, Rubio is racking up Congressional endorsements of late and gaining on the endorsement leader, Jeb Bush. (In part, this is because Jeb’s endorsements have slowed to a trickle.)

That the middle-of-the-party alternatives have all fallen by the wayside is a massive break for Rubio. Indeed, with the field as it is now, Rubio has several different avenues to get the nomination:

Scenario 1: Rubio wins Iowa. If Rubio steals a win in Iowa, we’re looking at the Democrats in 2004 all over again. Rubio will get a ton of momentum, storm New Hampshire, and wrap up the nomination by March. This may seem implausible, but Rubio strikes me as the most compelling speaker on Christianity in the field, and that sort of thing matters in Iowa. He also has a substantial television advertising presence in Iowa.

Scenario 2: Rubio wins New Hampshire. If Rubio wins New Hampshire, he is also highly likely to win the nomination. Even if Cruz is more popular among rank-and-file Republicans, the delegate rules in the Republican Party benefit the candidate who can win blue state Republicans. Ted Cruz isn’t winning New York.

Scenario 3: Rubio places in Iowa and slingshots to a New Hampshire win. A strong Rubio showing in Iowa would likely build substantial momentum for him entering New Hampshire. Scenario 2 could follow. (Rubio’s campaign has studiously avoided raising expectations in Iowa.)

Scenario 4: Rubio places in New Hampshire behind Trump. That leaves Rubio as a plausible “not-Trump,” and one could see the Republican establishment betting on Rubio to keep Trump and Cruz out of the nomination. (Again, considering how much public saturation Trump has had in the campaign, it is hard to imagine him building momentum; it’s not like anyone’s opinion on the man is likely to change.) The runner-up in a potential Trump win in New Hampshire likely would have the best opportunity to consolidate support in future contests.

All four scenarios are conceivable, and they all would give Rubio a very good shot to win the nomination by virtue of momentum.

But all might be less likely than the alternative, which is that the more factional candidates perform better in Iowa and New Hampshire. For months, the smart position has been to ignore horse-race polls and to focus on fundamentals: favorability, fundraising, endorsements, presentation. But at some point the polls become the best indicator, and we’re getting there soon. And Rubio, for all of his advantages, has not yet begun appreciable movement upward; over the second half of 2015 he moved from single digits into the mid-teens with some consistently solid debate performances, but he’s still by no means a leader in any poll, anywhere.

If Rubio finished, say, fourth in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, while John Kasich or Jeb Bush ran very well in New Hampshire, we might be looking at a standard race, where the Iowa and New Hampshire candidates must do battle in South Carolina and beyond. Rubio might wind up on the outside looking in, his middle strategy being outflanked on both sides.

A useful frame for the next month or so of politics-watching, then, is to monitor Rubio’s polling, because either he wins the nomination, or it’s going to be quite a ride for the next few months as the voters of the Republican Party grapple with multiple factional options.

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Dan Scotto lives and works in New Jersey. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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93 thoughts on “Most roads lead to Rubio, but…

  1. The Trump argument that most recently has me concerned is the following:

    Can you imagine someone who would publicly declare that they would be voting for any given candidate but, secretly, will be voting for Hillary Clinton?

    Can you imagine someone who would publicly declare that they would be voting for any given candidate but, secretly, will be voting for Donald Trump?

    It’s a hell of a lot more work for me to imagine the former than the latter. Hell of.

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    • Additionally, my evangelical political twitter corners have complained about how Trump will not stand up for evangelical values. He will make deals!, they cry to their followers. He will trade away what you care about because that is what deal-makers do!!! HE IS A DEAL-MAKER!!!

      Which, ironically enough, might actually be a serious argument in Trump’s favor. (Well, among those who see government getting things done as a good thing in and of itself, of course.)

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    • This is a potential explanation for Trump’s superior showing in robo-polls to human polls, I think. On the other hand, we can be fairly certain that a lot of people will publicly say they’re voting for Trump and secretly stay home altogether.

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      • On the other hand, we can be fairly certain that a lot of people will publicly say they’re voting for Trump and secretly stay home altogether.

        I think you can assume that the percentage of folks who say that they will vote for Trump and secretly stay home altogether is greater than for any other candidate.

        I think you can also assume that the percentage of folks who say that they will vote for Trump and then stay at home when he doesn’t get the nomination is also the largest of any candidate. Folks who want to vote for Bernie… some of them will stay home if Hilary gets the nod, but most will show up and vote for Hilary.

        Folks that want to vote for Trump, if the candidate is Rubio, more of them will stay home.

        How many more, I won’t hazard a guess… but that’s how I’d put my money.

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        • I think that’s true; relatedly, the percentage of otherwise likely Republican voters who will vote for him if he is beaten for the nomination but runs as a third party is probably also significant. Whatever happens, the Rs will regret it.

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          • It depends on how he loses. If he loses the primaries I have a feeling he’ll slink off once the eventual GOP nominee kisses his ring. If he wins some primaries and the Party sabotages him? Then things could get messy. I’m obviously hoping for the latter.

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        • I think you can assume that the percentage of folks who say that they will vote for Trump and secretly stay home altogether is greater than for any other candidate.

          I agree with this. But I also think there is reverse-Bradley potential with Trump. People may not want to tell pollsters they plan to vote for Trump because they know it’s shameful, when they do plan to, or might be genuinely resisting wanting to, and say another candidate’s name (or press their number) when asked, and then when given the secrecy of the ballot, vote for Trump.

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            • That’s his core, to be sure. The question is whether his appeal extends beyond that to people who want to avoid stigma for expressing agreement with him, but nevertheless agree with him and want to vote accordingly.

              As I say, it seems like a possibility to me. Not a remote one. That’s as much as I’m claiming now.

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              • That doesn’t get around my concern. Trump’s major hurdle is that the type of things that get rabid support from 30% of a given population tend to be the same type of things that get the other 70% hating you.

                It is entirely plausible that Trump could pull of some kind of shift that gets that number from 30% up into the 40s; this is a guy who changes his mind all the time and recognizes no real consequences for it. Trump is entirely capable of gaining new converts, but converts is exactly what they will be. In other words, the appeal of being a Trump supporter is largely in proclaiming to the world that you are a Trump supporter.

                Trump’s appeal has almost nothing to do with policy. The people who like him like him. There are already people who agree with Trump’s over the top and explicitly racialist ideas on immigration and national security and Making America Great Again, but who don’t like Trump. They’re called most Republicans and they’ll just vote for Ted Cruz or whoever else.

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                  • Maybe, but I’ve yet to come across a reluctant Trump supporter. In this race, that candidate is Hillary, so I will be curious to see how Sanders opinion polling performance stacks up against his performance at the actual polls.

                    I will put this in the form of a prediction: whatever happens to Trump’s campaign going forward, it will be reflected in the polling. There will be no discernible Bradley Effect.

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  2. A sound analysis but this leaves out a scenario, my own current pet theory: Rubio gets thumped in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina but goes on to win anyhow.
    If Rubio places in, say, top three which seems likely, he’s got his campaign set up and aligned to play the long game. He’ll have no serious trouble with money and the establishment is lined up behind him. The path I’m currently predicting is that Cruz wins Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire (I don’t know yet who wins in South Carolina) and then as the centrist candidates drop out the establishment lines up behind Rubio for super Tuesday and he runs the tables in those states.

    Possible hiccups in my theory: Ted Cruz wins Iowa AND New Hampshire AND South Carolina. That’s a lot of momentum. Jeb! Carpet bombs the fish out of Rubio out of pique or engages in all out war for establishment support (or at least denying it to Rubio). Some other centrist candidate gets ekes out a stronger than expected performance.

    Needless to say I’m rooting for not rubio

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        • Respectfully, I disagree. Romney won the nomination by being first choice in Obama country: blue states, and blue cities in red states. Where his executive experience — Bain Capital, Massachusetts Governor, SLC Olympics — played well, where social conservatism was less important, where media buys to smear the socon candidate du jour were effective. If Rubio is trying to reproduce that, doing reasonably well in the first three states is important, but he has to win places like Polk County in Iowa; Hillsborough County in NH; Richland and Charleston Counties in SC.

          It didn’t hurt that Romney was well-funded so that the i’s got dotted and t’s crossed everywhere. I was really surprised in 2012 by how many Republican candidates screwed up on basic paperwork kinds of things.

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          • You can bet the farm that the establishment is dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s for Rubio in every state in the union. All Rubio has to do is not wash out in the initial primaries (emphasis on not wash out, he doesn’t need to win) and ideally he needs his opponents to trade off on the wins. If Cruz takes Iowa and Trump gets New Hampshire and Rubio comes in second or third in both contests you can pretty much guarantee Rubio will be the nominee.

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      • In theory, he’s young, charismatic, Latino, connected to tea party activism but in line with the policy preferences of the big money interests and relatively unthreatening to moderates. In other words he’s perceived (quite possibly accurately) as the most electable candidate with traditional qualifications that’s within the policy mainstream of the party.

        I think part of it is that many Republicans, like other partisans, have a hard time coming to terms with the reasons that they lose when they lose. So some people that don’t understand how Obama beat them in 2012 think that there’s just some electoral magic in having a one-term nonwhite Senator who can give a good speech be your nominee.

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        • I think you’re underselling Marco here. Speaker of a state legislature, and a big state at that, is solid political experience. I’d argue he has more practical *political* experience than Hillary (but not Bernie, who’s served at the municipal level too, and did it by fighting existing political machines)

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          • But is that what people find appealing about him? I’m not trying to articulate a direct case for Rubio, since of course I’m a Democrat and would he rather he not be elected to anything in particular.

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          • Please note that Bernie’s fighting of existing political machines was done more as a drama queen than anything else. He played for public sympathy and got it…

            Not saying he wasn’t effective, but just that he did it so differently than what most people would mean by “fights the political machine”

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      • There’s a series of things that make Rubio the likely pick:

        -As Burt noted he’s the #2 pick for a ton of GOP factions. That is no small thing, especially with so many factions. Being the guy that you can nominate and not automatically alienate a lot of the base is no small thing.

        -He’s performed solidly to well at the debates. Trump hasn’t seriously dented him, Jeb pathetically bounced off. The Party and the voters definitely take that seriously (and they should, they’ve handed the Dems entire train loads of ammunition for the general).

        -Rubio’s sworn off his only apostasy (immigration*) and otherwise he’s he capably encapsulates the GOP’s various batshit contradictory policy preferences.

        -He’s a neocon. Everyone but the GOP elite recognizes that Bush Minor and his neocon admin shat the bed but those GOP elite don’t accept it and Rubio lets them tell themselves it’s the world and reality that screwed up; not them. It also reassures them that if history ever comes for them there’ll be someone in position to have their backs. That plays to their comfort level.

        -He’s young, with a Latino background and can bullshit very capably. The GOP’s policies are utter garbage right now so the elite know they need a thick candy coating to sell them and Rubio is plausibly the candy coating that can get the electorate to swallow it down.

        -His age, demographics and persona are well suited to playing against Hillary (or Bernie for that matter)’s candidacy. He’s young to their old; ethnic to their white; new to their established. On paper he’s got the best attack angles on them and the GOP desperately needs to win the Presidency**.

        -Rubio is scandal free. Nothing’s stuck to him and not much has even been flung. Compared to alternatives like Cristie that’s a big selling point. Also he isn’t on tape hugging Obama.

        So that basically encapsulates why the GOP’s ego/leadership cadre has lined up behind Rubio. The big question is whether the GOP is being run by its ego or if the ID has finally taken over.

        *And that one apostasy is one the elites have no problem with at all so it’s bonus points for them.
        **If the economy keeps chugging along the way it is and a lot of people think it could do so for quite some time it’s going to really inconveniently solidify the meme that Democratic Presidents preside over recoveries and prosperity while GOP administrations fish everything up.

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          • People have “said” that Romney considered Rubio for Veep and dropped him after vetting. They say “Hmm I wonder why” but 12 months of political operators looking for dirt have turned up bupkiss when they’d be paid a fortune to turn up not bupkiss. So either it’s buried amazingly well and Romneybot had really good vetters or there’s nothing there.

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            • I suspect you’re right, but there’s also the fact that Rubio is currently…not exactly a threat to anyone, especially not first-tier candidates with both access to money AND the political experience to dig up dirt. Trump, for instance, does not strike me as a man who has a heavy oppo team.

              In short, there’s really been no need to use any dirt on Rubio, even if any exists. Given the usual trajectory of a scandal, you’d save anything really good for a moment when he’s in the spotlight and rising.

              That means you get maximum coverage, maximum damage, and little to no recovery time for the target.

              If he was hitting Cruz’s numbers, it might be a good time.

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            • Jeb tried to play the “Romney people didn’t like what they saw” card. Romney people said nope.

              Rubio wasn’t picked because he shouldn’t have been, because he’d been a senator for less than two years.

              Not saying that there are no skeletons in that closet, of course. If there are, and they are actually known by Republican operatives, though, one wonders why they aren’t actually being used. Even if none of the vetters work for Rubio’s rivals (something I find unlikely), they’re Republicans and don’t want to see a terminally flawed candidate get the nomination.

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              • As I said to North, one potential reason is simply there’s been no need to use it.

                Rubio, currently, is in no danger of winning anything. He’s still pretty much buried in the noise, right? It’s Trump and Cruz sucking up all the air.

                No point in kicking an otherwise useful Republican, especially given how he’s waved around to explain how the GOP is totally pro-legal immigrant and not xenophobic at ALL and totally isn’t really trying to Prop 187 the country, unless there’s a danger of him actually getting real play.

                That’s not to say there is dirt — I’m pretty sure I was thinking of some of Jeb’s stuff as Governor, and not Rubio, in any case. Just that, well, the 11th Commandment sort of applies here without any real mitigating circumstances.

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                • This would be more convincing if they haven’t actually been trying to attack Rubio. The last debate, just about everyone including Cruz was doing so (Scotto wrote a post on it, I think). Jeb is doing so right now. Christie was doing it last week. Trump hasn’t in a while, mostly because he’s focusing on Cruz now.

                  The polls say what the polls say, but he’s not being shrugged off.

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                  • Yeah I’m with Will. If they had anything, especially Jeb, they would be deploying it. Destroying Rubio would be highly useful for Trump/Cruz because that would shatter the establishment support between Kasich, Cristie and Bush all of whom are considerably more flawed vessles for the GOP establishments desires. Similarily the other establishment candidates, especially Jeb!, desperately need Rubio gone.

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                    • Similarily the other establishment candidates, especially Jeb!, desperately need Rubio gone.

                      This in particular is true. Trump is mostly concerned with Cruz, and Carson is concerned with I don’t know what. But Cruz wants to become the only alternative to Trump (and wants to pick up Carson supporters for which he is in competition with Rubio), and Jeb/Christie/Kasich need the darn lane cleared.

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                      • You two are probably right about that, but I can’t help but think that the politicians with the best oppo research would also hold their fire until they were certain they needed it.

                        (And honestly, Jeb’s is probably the best by far — and it’s most useless in his hands right now. Nobody cares about Jeb, sad to say).

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            • Four years ago I heard that Rubio needed to be worried about staying out of jail.
              This from someone who knew about Edwards before it hit the papers (and about the multiple pederasts in college football; not just Penn State).

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      • If Cruz and Trump win the first two, I think you’ll be surprised how quickly the establishment comes to terms with supporting Cruz as the non-Trump.

        It’s a good bet that Iowa and NH will give wins to different people. I find it hard (but not impossible) to believe that Trump lose both. So that gives us either Trump and Cruz or Trump and Rubio. Do you think that the moderate wing of the party will trust South Carolina to make the final decision? Cruz and Rubio are both smart, experienced, and mentally sound. Next to Trump, either one is an easy sell.

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        • Opinions on that differ!! Josh Marshall (a liberal, to be sure, but a perceptive guy) thinks that there’s been a shift within the GOP apparati aligning with Trump against Cruz, reversing the currently accepted “anyone but Trump!” narrative. He doesn’t elaborate on specifics tho, so his opinion may be no more well-grounded than yours.

          I said early on that I had a hard time seeing Cruz gaining any real momentum within the GOP (cuz everyone hates him) except via a Nixonian strategy. And I still think Rubio makes some hay in the race (tho my prediction was that it woulda already happened by now).

          I’m still surprised that GOP candidates and media haven’t been hammering Trump on the dearth of policy proposals he’s actually offered. But then, I think everyone realizes that most of the national level GOP “status quo” proposals won’t withstand serious scrutiny anyway, so maybe they aren’t attacking him on that score for tactical reasons.

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          • I’m very much in the “They absolutely will not line up behind Cruz to stop Trump” camp. Whether they actually line up behind Trump to stop Cruz is uncertain. I suspect some will, but not as many that would line up behind another viable (but more palatable) option. Even some, though, makes that alternative viable option less likely.

            The biggest threat here is the money-for-access people, who might think that they can gain some sort of restraining capability on Trump. As far as politicos go,

            Trump still doesn’t have much of anything from actual office-holders, except Sessions. I don’t expect him to until the last minute. I expect Cruz actually will get some when Rand Paul exits the race, but not many. Where the actual politicians go is a big question.

            And if Trump does win the nomination, and there is no revolt, it’s going to be weird to be a Democrat. First step will be to pull my new party to the right.

            This all remains pretty uncharted territory.

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  3. I’m thinking that if it’s Rubio (and I’m not sure that it’s Rubio), then we’ll get there via #4.

    I think the main thing that might protect the Republicans is that Trump doesn’t really want the job. I think.

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    • I suspect Trump is smart enough to know he can’t really win the Presidency. But he can either win the nomination or throw the whole process into disarray in the process of not winning.

      You know, I don’t think he’s particularly political at heart. He doesn’t seem to have strong political convictions given that he’s been at various times a Democrat, an Independent, and now supposedly a Republican. More than anything else he loves being the center of attention and I think he correctly divined that the current fractured state of the Republican party offered him the opportunity to make a big splash.

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      • Never doubt how much ego can distort what people know about themselves. Does Donny T really know he can’t win? What does his ego tell us; 20 years ego he was an ego maniac in most peoples eyes. Gotta keep that ego busy and occupied and fed. I don’t doubt he thinks he can BE president. Do good salesmen doubt themselves or believe their own lines.

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      • I respectfully disagree. I think that Trump has been told by everyone around him for 40 years that he’s the biggest, smartest, toughest guy in the biggest toughest smartest city in the world. So I very much doubt that he has the self-awareness to recognize that he can’t really win.

        And, even if he were that self-aware, he’s probably right to think that he does have a reasonable shot to beat Hillary. She was a terrible campaigner against Obama. And after 8 years of a Democratic president, voters may be ready for a change.

        As for not being political, I think the better analysis is that he’s not terribly ideological. He has no coherent belief system that I can see. But he certainly wants the job.

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      • I suspect Trump is smart enough to know he can’t really win the Presidency.

        A reactionary friend, who has accused Obama of being every kind of enemy of the US you can think of, seems to believe that the President has everything necessary to crucify Hillary over the Dept of State e-mails of classified documents, and is simply waiting until the right time to drag her into court. “But wait,” I say. “He’s a Communist Muslim Kenyan who has destroyed the United States with his socialist health insurance plan and failure to nuke Iran for the Israelis — to quote you over the last few years — and now he’s going to throw the election to Trump?”

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      • I am a bit of a Trump convert. I still find him incredibly tacky and would never cast a vote for him and generally find the idea of him in the White House to be quite unpleasant. Of course, I feel the same way about Hilary Clinton.

        For a long time, I put Trump’s candidacy squarely in the vanity campaign/PR stunt category. That has changed. Trump is absolutely a serious candidate right now. There is a very real possibility that Trump could increase his popularity with Republican voters enough to start wining primaries. If that happens, momentum could take hold. And the reality of Trump v Clinton general election could easily keep enough sensible people at home to allow Trump to eek out a win.

        I am not convinced that this is going to happen, but it is no longer as far outside the realm of possibility as it once was.

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    • It’ll depend on how Trump loses the nomination. If he loses the votes and the GOP says nice stuff about him and sends the eventual nominee around to kiss his ring you can bet the farm he’ll not even consider a third party run. If he loses in a manner that suggests shenanigans and/or the GOP is insufficiently “respectful” then all bets are off.

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  4. I heard an analysis on the POTUS channel (XM) by a Princeton professor by the name of Wong, claiming that going purely by the current poll numbers in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally, Trump is in as strong a position to win the nomination as the eventual nominee going back I’m not sure how far. He claims that to win the nomination a candidate historically has to be polling at least second — at this point, two weeks before the Iowa caucuses — in one or more of Iowa, N.H., or nationally. At this point, Trump is as strong as Bush or Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, Obama or McCain in ’08, Romney in ’12, and as strong as Clinton is currently.

    The guy has an impressive track record. In 2012 he correctly called 49 of 50 states, every Senate race, and flubbed only a small handful of House contests. That’s better than Nate Silver while using a very similar methodology. Of course, Trump could be The Mule that renders historical precedent irrelevant. The Republicans seem to be coming apart at the seams which is something that seems to happen to political parties every forty or fifty years.

    Pass the popcorn…

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    • Yeah, I think that either way, the narrative works for Rubio if he gets 2nd in New Hampshire behind Trump. If he disappointed in Iowa, it’s “what a comeback!” If he does well in Iowa, it’s about his broad acceptability (“Oh, Rubio doing well everywhere!”)

      My basic underlying hypothesis here is that if Rubio looks like the most likely non-Cruz non-Trump candidate after New Hampshire, the party will rally to him. If not, then we’re looking at chaos.

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      • I think it also matters how much distance there is between Rubio and Trump and Rubio and Christie/Jeb. If it’s Trump at 35, Rubio 12, Christie 11, and Cruz/Jeb at 10 (for example)… that’s not good. Even if it’s 30/17/16/11/10 or something. He needs separation from Christie and Jeb.

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        • Potentially, yeah, I’m wondering what Christie’s campaign finances look like; can he push on much past South Carolina/Nevada? Jeb probably can stay in as long as he elects to but Christie and Kasich really need something to crow about after the first three or else I suspect they’ll run out of cash. Rubio desperately needs some of those other centrists out of the race; he also desperately needs Jeb!’s superpacs to stop carpet bombing him.

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  5. Gonna throw this down here for lack of a better place.

    I’ve been reading up on the meaning of “natural born” as it applies to the presidency, and I think I’m starting to fall for the hype. (Yikes!) The argument, in short, appears to be that in common law the meaning of “natural born” is crystal clear; that the SC has advised that the definition of that term should be determined by common law rather than statutory interpretation; and that common law defines “natural born” as a person born in the US (and territories, etc.). The opposing argument is that the statutory interpretation of natural citizen suffices for being considered natural born, in particular (or more precisely, specifically) having been born of US citizens while abroad. Notice that on both definitions McCain, Romney and Obama (assuming he could ever produce his long form birth certificate…) meet the condition as required for becoming President. The wrinkle, of course, is that Cruz was born to US parents (well, one anyway) outside of US territory.

    Here’s where it gets juicy, at least as I’m understanding McManamon’s argument as presented here: According to statutory interpretation, because he was born abroad of a US mother he is a naturalized-US-citizen-by-birth but is not a natural born (as defined by common law) US citizen. At least, that’s the distinction I think McM is hanging her scholarly hat on, a distinction that she’s made a pretty compelling case for. Course, she’s chasing on this, and running up hill taboot, so it’s prolly more of an academic point than anything.

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      • Boy, I dunno. It’s pretty intimidating stuff. Even Jack Balkin has weighed in. He disagrees with McManamon’s view of things (he basically doesn’t see any reason why the legislature cannot change the (constitutional) meaning via statute) but concedes arguments cut in different directions and the issue isn’t entirely clear.

        What’s weird is that he concedes the distinction between the concept of being a citizen at birth v. being a citizen by birth but dismisses its importance since in both cases citizenship happens “naturally”. (His view of the term “naturally” is sorta bizarre, actually…)

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    • I realize that this argument is all about legalism- and so common sense doesn’t enter into it- but I despite how much I truly loathe Cruz, I can’t take it very seriously. Consider 2 scenarios:

      1) Person A is born to vacationing French parents in New York. She returns home 2 weeks later and lives in Paris until her 35th year, when she meets a someone from California, falls in love, marries, and moves to the US permanently. She gets involved in politics and the year she turns 55 she runs for the presidency.

      2) Person B is born to an American mother and a New Zealand father* who are working as missionaries** in Kenya. They move the Ohio when she’s 2 years old, and she lives in the US from that point on. She also runs for president in her 55th year, which happens to be the same year that Person A turns 55.

      I can not see a place where someone arguing in good faith*** could ever claim that Person A is more “American” than Person B, whatever your definition. But using McManamon’s logic, Person A is a completely legitimate candidate, and Person B is not. How in the world can that have been the intent of that requirement?

      *Why not? Also, what happened with the Kiwi flag vote?

      **Christian missionaries, of course

      ***There’s the rub, right?

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      • Well, I hear ya, but while McManamon is out front with the most detailed argument against, lots of other people (important people!) aren’t convinced that it’s a clear-cut issue. Eg, the CRS has written reports that rely exclusively on the language of the Naturalization Act 1790 as guidance to resolve the constitutional question (that’s apparently the only legislation which uses the term “natural born citizen”), concluding that it’s “likely” that persons born outside the US of US citizens pass constitutional muster to be president.

        Interestingly, when referring to children of US citizens born abroad the NA 1790 says that those persons “shall be considered as natural citizens”, which is – on my reading anyway – very consistent with McManamon’s argument that those provisions didn’t expand the definition, but attributed to those person’s some specific privileges entailed by citizenship (one of them being citizenship!). For example, she argues that in England the purpose of a similar statute was to allow children of English parents born abroad to exercise inheritance claims.

        I dunno. It’s murky.

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      • How in the world can that have been the intent of that requirement?

        The intent of the “natural born” requirement was to curtail foreign influence in the US political process. As far as I know, the meaning of that term at the time of ratification was agreed upon as restricting the Presidency to only people who had been born in the US. Your argument here is picked up by Katyal and Clements who arue that one of the intentions of the NA 1790 musta been!! to allow folks born abroad to US citizens to run for the Presidency. (I don’t find their argument persuasive, actually (if I’m remembering it right :)). Their paper is here, if your innersted.

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