All Republicans agree that there is one goal: defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.
Yet a large portion of Republican primary and caucus goers seem to continually throw that goal out the window. They vote for billionaire Donald Trump — a candidate that nearly 60 percent of the American electorate told an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in July they won’t consider voting for in the general election. This is so, notwithstanding that never in history has the United States presidency been won with less than 40 percent of the vote. Second-grade math illustrates that a vote for Trump now is effectively a vote for Clinton.
To meet their goal — defeating Clinton in November — Republicans need to gain support from young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women. The people who for years have felt the party has ignored them. The people who do not relate to, and are not represented by, wealthy white males.
But Republicans never learn. They appear to be on the path to again nominate a rich, white male. And not just any rich, white male. A billionaire who has offended women and Latinos, to name but two groups, and cannot really relate to those who struggle to pay their bills because he has been rich since the day he was born.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was unable to win even one county in South Carolina, a southern state where a majority of the electorate identifies as either born-again or evangelical Christians. His base is turning against him. And while no one can say for certain, it could be because voters feel other candidates are making stronger arguments, or the willingness of the Cruz campaign to lie about other candidates.
Cruz supporters lied and said retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was dropping out of the presidential race on the night of the Iowa caucus. Cruz’s campaign then doctored a photo to make it look as if President Barack Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio were shaking hands; and on Monday, Cruz fired campaign communications director Rick Tyler after he tweeted a false video alleging Rubio had bad mouthed the Bible. In a statement Cruz said that “even if it was true,” his campaign shouldn’t question the faith of other candidates. But the allegation against Rubio wasn’t true. And Cruz knew it. Tyler admitted as such. A Monmouth University poll and a Public Policy Polling survey, reported in The New York Times, found that Cruz’ favorability rating had dropped dramatically since November. Even in states such as South Carolina, where his support should have been strong.
Trump’s unfavorable rating is even higher than Cruz’. Taken together, all of the above shows that Trump and Cruz have at best a nominal shot at winning the presidency if they got the Republican nomination. To vote for either today, even if they are a voter’s first choice, defies logic — assuming the party’s goal is to defeat Clinton in November. So what are Republicans to do?
In walks a young Cuban-American senator. To his left, South Carolina’s Indian-American governor, Nikki Haley. To his right, South Carolina’s African-American senator, Tim Scott. In the words of Haley, a walking “Benetton commercial.” That was the scene on Saturday night when Rubio took the stage after the South Carolina primary.
Rubio is smart, articulate, tough, and has run his campaign on ideas. He is solid on domestic policy and even stronger on foreign affairs. He understands the struggles of average Americans because he, too, has experienced those struggles. He understands the enormous debt college students face because he finished paying his student loans three years ago. Young voters can relate to him. He also showed in South Carolina that he, too, can bring in the evangelical vote, despite the Cruz campaign and media outlets having claimed Cruz was “locking up” that vote. Rubio can unite the party and reach out to the voters needed to defeat Clinton.
Contrast that picture with the white billionaire, surrounded on stage by other white wealthy people, hurling insults at just about every group imaginable. This really isn’t rocket science. Republicans must stop voting for candidates who cannot possibly win the general election. If not, they will hand the presidency to Clinton.
The window of opportunity is closing. It is time to coalesce around Rubio.
Allison Caffarone is visiting assistant professor of legal writing at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.