Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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.

cross-posted from (and all comments welcome at) Dagblog

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