This week, even after his latest round of racially charged comments, the reality TV show star and billionaire developer is expected to dominate Super Tuesday and the SEC primaries, winning as many as 12 of 13 contests. Come Wednesday morning, his delegate count may well approach 400, or just over 50% of the total number delegates awarded to date across the five person field. Over the next two weeks, a further 545 delegates will be up for grabs in seventeen states. When the dust settles, 61% of the delegates will have been awarded, and, if his current levels of support in public opinion polls do not abate, Donald Trump will have secured upwards of 75% of the number of delegates that he needs to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this coming July.
Standing in his path is Marco Rubio, the chosen champion of a Republican establishment that is reeling from their abject betrayal by a large swath of the base of their party. Like Horatius at the gates, defending Rome from the infidel Etruscan mob, Republicans have turned to the 44 year old, first term senator from Florida, to protect them from the devastation sure to befall party and country should Trump prevail.
How the Republican establishment could have settled on Marco Rubio as their champion--from among a field that Republicans themselves saw as wide and deep--boggles the mind. Eight years ago, Republicans mocked Democrats for nominating a first term senator--just a few years out from being a state legislator--whose main claim to fame was his ability to give a good speech.
Sound familiar? The Greeks in the heyday of Sophocles and Aristophanes could have produced no greater ironic script. Watching Marco on the Republican debate stage this week, just a few weeks removed from his merciless thrashing at the hands of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made a further mockery of the seriousness of his candidacy. Marco has been urged for weeks by establishment party leaders and pundits to take the fight to Trump, and so he did. And each time he struck a blow--"You hired Polish workers!" or "Your ties are made in China!"--he could not resist looking up at the audience with that Alfred E. Newman grin, literally pumping his fists to the whoops of the cheerleaders placed in the crowd. Look, he was saying to the donors whose trust he needed to restore, and to his mother who has yet to fathom how far her little Tony has risen, Did you see that!
The next day, prompted by Trump's continuing sophomoric taunts about Rubio's tendency to perspire under the klieg lights, Rubio plowed ahead. Apparently thrilled with his newfound skill at playing the dozens with the GOP frontrunner, Rubio speculated before a crowd in Dallas that his retorts on stage had made the Donald pee his pants. And it got worse.
For his part, John Kasich chafes each time some emissary from the desperate reaches of the GOP suggests that he should step aside for the first term senator. One can imagine Kasich channeling his inner Moe Greene from the Godfather. You know who I am? I am the Governor of f--king Ohio. I was the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I balanced the Federal budget when Marco Rubio was running around in short pants. I am a serious man. Who the f--k is Marco Rubio, and who gives a s--t if he can give a good speech. You want me to step down and run as Marco Rubio's VP? No, he steps down. He can run as my VP. I don't step down.
Marco Rubio is out of his league. He likes to tout his foreign policy chops in the debates, but somehow always has to raise his voice when he does, as if to find gravitas from volume that is not rooted in experience or evidenced by wisdom. It is not simply the hubris--that other gift of Greek tragedy--of the words coming from a man with little experience beyond sitting in Senate hearings, it is that his presentation is always scripted. You just know that if questioning were to go to a second or third level, he would struggle to acknowledge or deal with the complexity that real issues in the real world present.
Marco Rubio is not ready. Chris Christie knows this, John Kasich knows this, and Jeb Bush knows this. And deep down inside, most of the big dogs of the GOP who have endorsed Marco Rubio know this. He is not the savior of the GOP that people want to imagine--not this time around anyway. He is the one who should step aside, before he gets crushed in the Florida primary. Leaving now, before the deluge, will preserve his viability in his home state, where he can return and run for governor in 2018. Then, perhaps in 2024, when he is in his early 50s and has some experience under his belt, when he has qualifications for the position he seeks, he can return to the national stage and take his shot at the Big Chair in the Oval Office.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at jayduret.com.