One of the new questions that will be answered in the days to come is who will emerge as the ‘anti-Trump candidate’ now that the GOP race is essentially a 3-man race. Sen. Cruz and Sen. Rubio each have strengths that work to their advantage. Both have weaknesses, too. People listening to Charles Hurt would think that the race is essentially over, that Trump has all but officially wrapped up the GOP presidential nomination.
Despite his obvious bias, however, he has made some legitimate points worth considering. During his appearance on Fox’s election night coverage, Hurt said “If Ted Cruz can’t win in South Carolina, I don’t know where he does win. Obviously, he won in Iowa but that’s a very peculiar situation with the caucuses and the kind of ground game you need to win there. But if he can’t win with the evangelical vote in South Carolina, I don’t know where he does win. The fact that Donald Trump is able to reach those people, and he’s clearly not one of them … I think Ted Cruz is finished.”
Bret Baier replied to that, saying “Listen, Charlie, this is what the Cruz people say. They say that he never said he had to win South Carolina, that he’s well-positioned for the SEC states. He came in a strong third in New Hampshire and basically, they’re questioning the Rubio 3-2-1 strategy, saying 3-5-3 won’t really work for Rubio. That’s what the Cruz people are saying.” After Hurt stopped laughing, he replied “Yeah, the Rubio strategy isn’t working that great either, right now. But the Ted Cruz strategy isn’t working either. Again, if he isn’t going to win in South Carolina, where is he going to win?” Later, Hurt said that a Trump vs. Rubio match-up is a much tougher match-up for Trump without explaining why he thought that.
Prior to his suspending his campaign, Gov. Bush was the only candidate attacking Trump. Unfortunately for Gov. Bush, his attacks weren’t that potent. The ads from Right to Rise PAC didn’t put Mr. Trump on the defensive. Now that the Bush money machine has switched to Sen. Rubio, it’s virtually guaranteed that his ads will have a better chance of putting Trump on the defensive.
With the SEC Primary fast approaching, and Super Tuesday almost upon us, look for Sen. Rubio to gain momentum from some high-profile endorsements in the next week. That’s a distinct advantage Sen. Rubio has over Sen. Cruz. While Sen. Cruz brags about not being part of “the Washington Cartel’, Sen. Rubio hasn’t shown a hostility to Capitol Hill conservatives like Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy. Expect other conservatives to start endorsing Sen. Rubio.
Another potential ace-in-the-hole who might be a perfect fit for endorsing Sen. Rubio is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Ditto with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Ditto with Sen. Pat Toomey, (R-PA) and Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-WI). Sen. Toomey is up for re-election and facing a tough re-election fight. Sen. Johnson is also fighting for re-election in Wisconsin. With that state hardly being a deep red state, odds are that he’d rather run with Sen. Rubio at the top of the ticket than Sen. Cruz.
Pro-reform governors like Scott Walker and Mike Pence are popular with GOP primary voters because GOP primary voters understand that they’ve got lengthy lists of reforms that have shown people that conservatives can’t just govern but win with conservative ideas.
Saturday night, the dynamic of the GOP presidential race changed significantly. While Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz both have weaknesses, it’s clear from the ‘inventory of assets’ currently in Sen. Rubio’s column that Sen. Rubio has the better long-term chance of defeating Trump and winning the GOP nomination than does Sen. Cruz.