Doctor Cleveland's picture

    It's Not Stop Trump. It's Stop Cruz.

    The big headline today is that Sarah Palin, Martyr Queen of the Resentful Bozos, has endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa. But the even bigger news in some ways is that the Republican Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, came out to attack Ted Cruz today, saying that a Cruz win would be bad for Iowa. That's a Tea Party figure AND an establishment Republican both weighing in, on the same day, to keep Ted Cruz from winning Iowa. (And, in a transparently coordinated move, abstinence-poster-girl Bristol Palin attacked Cruz in a blog post earlier today.)

    That's two shots to Cruz's kneecaps in one day, from both the (very, very relative) left and the (out past the horizon) right. Guess it's Iowa Caucus season.

    People have been talking about an Anyone But Trump movement. But what we're actually seeing is an Anyone But Cruz movement. And that means Donald Trump is included in "anyone."

    The weirdness of the Republican primary cycle just keeps going. First, Trump got out to a head start because no "reasonable," clearly electable Republican got any traction. Then, instead of one of the less extreme candidates (by this season's extremely generous definition of "less extreme") emerging as the alternative to Trump, wingnut Cruz became the primary alternative: the Wing-Not-Trump, as it were. And while that has taken me totally by surprise, it seems to be part of the structure of this year's field. Before Cruz, the number two candidate in the polls was Ben Carson. Carson's fade and Cruz's rise were nearly simultaneous, indicating that the second-largest bloc of Republican primary voters are hard-right types who, for various reasons, don't like Trump.

    Now, faced with Trump and Cruz as first and second front-runners, and with none of the more presentable candidates catching on after months of striving and spending, it looks like some party figures are trying to choose between these unpalatable alternatives. (And yes, I know, it's early, and one of the more respectable-seeming candidates might yet become the standard bearer for Republicans who dislike both Trump and Cruz. But it's not that early any more; none of them has managed to break out of the pack despite months of predictions that a breakthrough was around the corner, and if none of them catches fire in the next three weeks they're all cooked. David Brooks's column today, pleading for the Republicans to coalesce around someone who could win the general, is sounding downright desperate.)

    And in the latest twist, various Republican players are signaling that they would rather have Trump than Cruz. That's how hated Cruz is. But it also suggests that they view a Cruz candidacy as an even worse deal than a Trump candidacy, that Cruz could do more damage to the party or that a long-shot Cruz victory would be worse than a long-shot Trump victory. That's a pretty high bar you've cleared there, Ted.

     I'm going to have to stock up on more popcorn. Direct from Iowa.



    Might be interesting to review the comments on your Jane Austen post. I'm not saying "I told you so" aside from I expected Cruz to be hanging out near the front by now, being cagey and wily and ickily persistent and smarter politically than people give him credit or, but I would have figured Trump would have dropped more. Will the populace vote for an establishment-hated figure? They seem to be supporting that notion with either Trump or Cruz. With allowing Trump to be an honorary evangelical despite his obvious non-evangelical qualities, silly season is truly upon us. But who is sillier, Trump or Cruz? Will there be a smashup on the freeway and someone totters out of the backseat alive, or are we going to get a crazy game of hotrod chicken that decides who's the unlikely badass once and for all?

    Trump is an honorary everything. He's an honorary member of the tea party, an honorary conservative. But if he wins the nomination and loses the general the right wing will remember all his moderate positions and then it will be that he lost because he wasn't conservative enough. Conservatism can never fail. It's always failed because it wasn't conservative enough.

    Sounds like VJ Naipaul's study of Islam, "Beyond Belief", where Islamic governments and madrasahs alike only failed by not adhering to the words of the prophet close enough.

    You don't have to say "I told you so," pp. I'll say it myself: you told me so.

    You were right and I was wrong, both on the Jane Austen/GOP thread and on an earlier thread when Cruz first announced. I certainly did not expect Cruz to do this well, so I was wrong and you were right. I also did not expect it to be two insane contenders instead of one crazy and one superficially sane contender.

    I will stand by only one part of my earlier disagreement with you: you argued that Cruz could square the circle by appealing both to outsiders and establishment types, that his Ivy-League education, etc. would give him enough cred with the insiders. That seems not to be happening. The insiders still hate his guts, to the extent that many of them prefer Trump.

    But you're right about the rest.

    Well I was wrong about Trump's staying power, & thought Cruz's establishment cred was better, misreading his Bush connections (of course they want Jeb as well) & misreading I think how much of a split between leadership and the party freaks there is. (Paul Ryan's short honeymoon surprised me). But I was right about Cruz's ability to play chicken with the rest of the party and inspire the nihilistically inclined, and somehow that's enough to tie him for the lead in a still large pack, though it's also New Hampshire & Iowa, who are invested in showing they can make a difference, even an early stage suicidal one.

    Which classic novel can we riff off for the next round? (or maybe it's movies - The Odd Couple? Dumb and Dumber?)

    Anyway, as I stare at the lede, I start seeing "Stomp Trump, Crop Stuz, Crump Trop, Strop Truz, Cruze Top, Trup Crumz, Trope Croz, Stroz Crip, Crap Trip, Crum Tru...."

    I tell ya, it's either a new avant-garde novel or a Rorschach test gone bad and mad. Ok, that was an easy choice.

    Wondering about our post-mortem now, or whether we dare give one. De mortuis nil nisi bene (et de malis vivens). It's like when Dusk to Dawn crossed the Mexican border - Tarantino's Pride and Prejudice remake. Leaving Las Cruces, entering terra infirmata. The world must be amazed by America's sole remaining Superpower, and not in a good way. Somehow I thought hesitation would show some sanity, but instead we got consensus. Around a sphynx and a sphincter. It's like telling the globe "Pull my finger!"

    Good take, Doc.

    I wonder what might have been different if the other wimps had had the fortitude to cut Trump down early. I think they just underestimated him and he punched them out early.

    Good catch, doc. GOP leaders obviously bear some personal animus against Cruz. He's not a team player, and he's an asshole. But I suspect that they may also have pragmatic concerns about the future of the party. Trump is a celebrity but not a movement leader. He emerged from nowhere (politically speaking) and will probably return to nowhere (politically speaking) when this is over. Cruz, on the other hand, is an insurgent leader. Win or lose, he will continue to threaten the Republican establishment.

    I'm not sure why Palin chose Trump though. They do seem like political kin--big sizzle, no substance.

    You're right. Having an outsider as official party leader for one election, or even one Administration, is something your party can walk away from. If a leader of a disgruntled faction, like Cruz, takes over the party, that has more lasting consequences.

    I would expect Republicans to treat a hypothetical President Trump much as California Republicans treated Governor Schwarzenegger: with no particular party loyalty, and with their own separate legislative agenda.

    I mean, you explain your own question about Palin: she and Trump are the same, and she has an interest in promoting a new celebrity-heavy approach to candidacy. She benefits when Free Media beats out Ground Game. They're a natural fit. What's interesting is that Palin chose this particular moment to throw in with Trump.

    Yup. Not a coincidence. Bobby D. didn't decide to make this statement to the press right now by accident.

    In other news, Nate Silver seems to agree with me:

    Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.

    But so far, the party isn’t doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it’s making such an effort against Cruz.

    This is really quite shocking to me. What is wrong with this guy that they hate him more than Trump? I hate him because he's such a far right extremist. But I'm a liberal. Though he's to the right of the republican party there's at least a few dozen in the house and senate that are just as far right as Cruz that aren't so hated. I know he's attacked other senators but that still seems an insufficient reason to hate him more than Trump. And it's not just the senate. Every where he's been and everyone he's worked with seems to hate him. What is it about Cruz that people who know him hate him so much? It seems like there's a piece missing to explain this.

    Maybe somewhere deep inside they still have a residual awareness that they're just bluffing, while Cruz doesn't have that? New generation of Replicant had self-awareness safety valve removed, as too many were self-destructing.

    Go Ted!


    (After careful consideration, I am registering as a repugnant so as to vote for Cruz in the coming primary.  Sorry, Bernie.)

    o.k. I called Cruz early on as a contender in my persona piece, well Cruz and Paul, and none of us saw Trump coming or when he did, enduring. Steps: be a loudmouth, get media attention, run for President.

    I also had the Kasich piece and it is noteworthy that he may be making a move for 2nd place in New Hampshire. I think the Republican establishment would love to have him move into recognition as the establishment candidate, which they  could engineer if he can come in second in New Hampshire. Thus the attacks on Cruz I see as a bank shot, don't let him win Iowa, have an acceptable #2 in NH.

    Number 2 will challenge Trump down the line.

    Cruz has a better average against Clinton than Trump. in the poles.

    If you give Rove any credence, he thinks Trump would be the disaster against Clinton, not Cruz. Trump is a disaster and Cruz is "dicey".

    Iowa is Cruz's unique chance because of the religious right.

    I think that the attacks on Cruz may backfire in Iowa.

    They are all unlikable.

    I could make this all make a lot more sense if my computer would allow me to correct a sentence.

    Message: The attacks on Cruz are a bank shot, the aim is to get an establishment candidate to outrun Trump. The establishment is not all of a sudden in love with Trump, imo, because Clinton can surely beat him.

    If Kasich (or Jeb or Christie) wins the nomination, the right wing will bolt, and the party will be screwed. On the other hand, if Trump or Cruz win the nomination, the establishment will bolt, and the party will be screwed. Honestly, I think Rubio is their only shot to avoid civil war.

    five outta six.  I'm liking the odds...


    Michael, Rubio has the best numbers against Clinton, so they would be wise to nominate him. I didn't necessarily exclude him from my bank shot analogy. (Trump still has the worst numbers against Clinton)

    I just think in the vituperative mind of Republicans, Kasich is the better Trump attacker---if establishment  Republicans can engineer any kind of defense before Trump runs the table. Kasich is a viper, e.g. a good man.

    Do you still hold to your TR/Cruz analogy? 


    I just happened upon the Upshot article in NYT. Excellent analysis. The aim of the est. is to get a runner up in New Hampshire who they can hype going into S. Carolina. Kasich or Rubio.

    Sure. The bank shot makes sense. But notice that it's not knock out TRUMP and then bank to whoever comes in second in NH. It's take out Cruz now, for sure, and Trump later if they can manage.

    Taking out Cruz now actually makes it harder for the Stage 2 candidate to beat Trump in the second stage of the bank shot, because when Crux goes Trump may take more of Cruz's voters than Rubio/Kasich/Christie/Bush will.

    Right, I see that Trump could benefit. But for New Hampshire in particular, the laconic strain, not sure they like the guy very much. Rove says Trump has high floor and low ceiling.

    HILLARY would chew Rubio up and spit him out.  He is a light-weight little shit who can only memorize and really knows absolutely nothing. 

    Forget these Rep-vs-Dem comparisons - they're so far out as to be meaningless.

    What did a Hillary vs. Bernie poll in June mean? with Biden Too!!! And that's closer than next November. And it matters a whole lot what this weird pack of Republicans does between now and then. Even Bush could rise from the dead (zombie alert).

    Doc, Simon Malloy has just tried to shoot down the bank shot theory on Kasich in New Hamsphire. Article in Salon.

    That is, the Kasich bank shot won't pocket, consolidate, an est. candidate for the primaries because  his moderate (that's a laugh)  position, say, on medicaid, will  make him unsuitable to many conservatives, thereby perpetuating division rather than closing ranks around aTrump alternative  (serious browser problem here).

    We'll see. Don't get me wrong, can't stand the guy. But that's my point, Kasich is as mean as Trump, and any est. candidate will have to be able to cut Trump up to win the nomination. I recall Gingrich's, an even more distasteful person than Kasich, surge in S. Carolina, backed by Adelson, in 2012.

    Of course, the attempt to derail Cruz might in itself backfire.

    Not to belabor all this.


    Yeah. I think there are real differences between Cruz voters who oppose Trump and Kasich/Bush/Christie voters who oppose Trump.

    Trump DOES have a low ceiling. He may never get to 40% or 45% support even among primary voters. That should be electoral death for him (and WOULD be electoral death in the general), but the "high floor" keeps him the front-runner as long as the vote is split 4+ ways. But the party actually is split more than three ways.

    I think the nightmare scenario for the GOP is that there are still 3-5 significant candidates, each with at least 10-15% support, still running at the end of March. Trump will still be around, plus 2 or 3 of the "mainstream" candidates from the Rubio/Kasich/Bush/Christie menu, and either Cruz or someone else who picks up the standard for Cruz's voters (if, for example, Cruz were successfully driven out and his voters just migrated to Rand Paul or to Huckabee). Trump could blunder along "winning" a fair number of states with 28-35% of the votes.

    Two things to remember in this nightmare scenario:

    1) After the first phase of the election, the GOP primaries shift from dividing up the delegates proportionally between all the finishers to some winner-take-all or winner-take-most primaries where the first past the post gets ALL of that's states delegates. The winner in New Hampshire doesn't bank that many more delegates than the #4 finisher in New Hampshire; the point is for the also-ran candidates to take the hint and drop out while the party coalesces around the front runners. Then the mid-game primaries are designed to give one of those front runners enough delegates to lock up the nomination.

    This system breaks down if the field isn't whittled down enough by March or even April. If there are still more than three major contenders in a winner-take-all race, you can have someone racking up big delegate wins with only 30 or 40 percent of the vote. You could even have someone win the popular vote, in a pretty lopsided way, but lose the nomination.

    These winner-take-all states should be a firewall against a candidate like Trump, but if Trump still has three substantial opponents these rules will help him instead.

    2) Some of those important winner-take-all states in March include Florida and Ohio, which gives Kasich, Bush, and Rubio strong incentives NOT to drop out until then. (I expect Bush to drop out after losing Florida to Rubio, with a tiny chance that it's the other way around.) Those candidates can rack up a big batch of delegates, and maybe even move into the delegate lead, by hanging around and winning their home states.

    Similarly, Ted Cruz is going to hang out until the Texas primary on Super Tuesday.


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