Cruz, Rubio and clarity in the race
Despite the oversized field and non-traditional candidates, the battle for the Republican presidential nomination is starting to shape up in familiar ways. There will be a champion of the establishment wing taking on the champion of the party base to determine the nominee.
One interesting possibility is that this year’s finalists could both be young, articulate and Hispanic. There’s a long road ahead, but it is very reasonable to envision Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the last candidates standing.
Among establishment candidates, Rubio almost certainly has enough charisma and eloquence to overcome Jeb Bush’s claim of inevitability. And, other than Bush, it’s hard to find a serious contender among the establishment crowd. Some see Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a possibility, but there is little evidence he has any support beyond a small group of reporters.
As for the outsider field, that is currently dominated by three people who have never held office before: Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. It’s been very healthy for these outsiders to shake things up in the Grand Old Party. Without them, the establishment never would have figured out how unpopular the idea of a third Bush in the White House had become.
But I don’t believe any of the non-politicians will actually win the nomination. It’s quite possible that one or more of them will win a caucus or primary. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to have Carson emerge victorious in Iowa. But winning the nomination is a different matter entirely. Sooner or later, the lack of political experience will drag them down. It’s unfortunate that the process has evolved to the point where only professional politicians can win, but that’s the reality we face in 2016.
Of all the politicians left in the race, Cruz is the only one likely to have any appeal to supporters of Trump, Carson and Fiorina.
This could set up a truly fascinating opportunity for the Republican Party. For years, pundits have wondered how the Republicans could ever make inroads with minority voters. Democratic analysts have gleefully assumed that the growing number of Hispanic voters would automatically translate to a growing number of Democrats.
But that could all change very quickly. Imagine week after week, month after month, debate after debate filled with stories about two Hispanic men competing for the Republican presidential nomination. All of a sudden, it’s easy to imagine more Hispanic voters taking part in the Republican primaries. And every single story would highlight the reality that regardless of who wins, the GOP would become the first major political party to nominate a Hispanic presidential candidate.
One senior Republican insider believes that “the logic of a Ted-Marco final would be challenging for Democrats.” He believes that “it would present Hispanic voters with a clear choice between lip service about immigration reform after years of failure or the profound and the very real symbolism of two immensely different but talented Republican Hispanics poised to lead the nation.”
Obviously, there’s still a long way to go. But the possibility of a Cruz-Rubio finale for the Republican nomination is one of the more likely – and interesting – possibilities.