10 February 2016
The Republican endgame draws closer
Carly Fiorina is out and Gov. Christie is most likely soon to follow. They're casualties of the New Hampshire Republican primary, where Christie, in particular, did more harm to Sen. Rubio than he did help to himself. Unlike Fiorina, Christie at least made it on to the news, but while he may have proved to some that Rubio lacks spontaneity, he apparently failed to overcome his own unlikability or convince voters that executive experience counts for something this cycle. Dr. Carson endures and presumably is staking all on his popularity with southern evangelicals, while Gov. Kasich has outlasted more of his rivals than many expected and can almost plausibly portray his second-place finish in New Hampshire as a win. He's the last hope of the moderates, now, though Jeb Bush presumably awaits the moment when he'll take over that role. Rubio has been staggered by his debate debacle despite his attempt to double down on his supposed weakness by vowing to repeat his rote phrase about Obama anytime he wants. Senator Cruz has been looking past New Hampshire for a while, I suspect, though he'll need to prove his electability in a blue or swing state at some point. He may want to delay that moment until it's an either-or choice between him and Donald Trump, who now can call himself a winner again, if not a comeback kid. While Fiorina and Christie have found New Hampshire fatal to their ambitions, all the "Live Free or Die" state really proved this time was that Rubio has a one-track mind and Trump's supporters didn't immediately abandon him after a defeat. From what I can tell the true believers are still out there believing, but for now they're only a plurality of Republican primary voters. This thing won't start to be decided until you start to see candidates winning majorities of the primary popular vote. For that to happen, more candidates need to quit, but apart from Carson I don't know if any of the survivors are ready to go soon. Bush can probably afford to play a waiting game, while Kasich will wait and see if he can actually gain momentum out of New Hampshire. The big question mark remains whether Cruz has a full-scale movement out there, or whether he and Rubio will cancel each other out. But as every corpse of a candidacy falls by the wayside the time of reckoning grows nearer. I think we're past mere popularity contests, now, and that means things should get really interesting soon.