Thursday, April 07, 2016

Will Cruz's Wisconsin Win Save or Doom the GOP?

The mud wrestling in the GOP continues in the wake f Ted Cruz's resounding win in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday.   Some are depicting Cruz's win as the beginning of the end for Donald Trump while others see it as setting the stage for a brokered GOP convention where some non-candidate such as Paul Ryan - who I despise - can be given the nomination and, in the eyes of the so-called GOP establishment, save the party form the frightening rabble of the base that the very same GOP establishment empowered over the last 20+ years.  A piece in Politico looks at all of the maneuvering and in-fighting.  Here are highlights:
In the town of Ripon, Wisconsin, sits a small, white clapboard schoolhouse with the sign: “Birthplace of the Republican Party.” According to Wisconsin lore, the GOP was conceived there in 1853, when a small group of citizens, inspired by their opposition to the spread of slavery, came together to change “the future of our nation,” as the “Little White Schoolhouse” website puts it.
The question we face now is: Has Wisconsin done it again? That is, changed the future of the nation—or at least of the GOP? Republican elites are giddy over the trouncing of Donald Trump by Ted Cruz in Tuesday's primary, and the GOP establishment did pull off a victory when it came to slowing the Trump steamroller. For a few more weeks at least, the world has been made safe for the GOP as we’ve come to know it—aging white men who hold many of their voters in bewilderment or outright contempt and then, more often than not, go on to politely lose to the Democrats in the fall. Usually by a small enough margin that keeps the majority of GOP officeholders in power. (Which is all that really matters, right?)
But the GOP leadership is probably in deep denial. It's far more likely that the Republican Party as we know it died Tuesday night in the same state as it was purportedly born in. What’s forgotten amid the celebration is that 83 percent of Wisconsin Republicans still voted for the two candidates who are most determined to redefine the Party of Lincoln (and Ripon) and break the “establishment” hold on it. In some ways, the Stop Trump movement’s shotgun marriage to Ted Cruz—the most awkward coupling since Michael Jackson “dated” Brooke Shields—is actually a worse bet for what Cruz likes to call “the Washington cartel.” 
Cruz, a shrewd strategist, is also well aware that a number of the people who support him now really hope to force a contested convention and insert somebody more pleasing to their interests. In classic fashion, for example, Lindsey Graham used his awkward endorsement of Cruz, a man whose murder he had joked about only weeks earlier, to endorse John Kasich. The GOP’s all but powerless powers-that-be have said that Cruz is the least bad of two terrible options, with Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate and current speaker of the House, emerging as the favorite dark horse (or white knight: pick your political clich√©) to save the party. If the Ryan scenario—however unlikely—does in fact play out, it’s entirely probable that Wisconsin and its favorite son could someday be viewed as saviors of the GOP, or at least of the GOP establishment.
In a blistering statement issued last night that preposterously labeled Cruz an establishment “puppet,” the Trump campaign hit on that point, which will likely be its main campaign theme here on out: The evil establishment is coming for you.
Cruz himself is unlikely to tolerate the label of establishment “puppet” for long. He’ll undoubtedly find a way out of his brief marriage of convenience with the GOP hierarchy—and basically do an end run around them, a tactic at which he is has proved to be highly skilled, after all. Thus, what the Republican elites are likely to have done in Wisconsin is make an eventual arrangement of sorts between the Trump and Cruz factions of the GOP all but inevitable—if only to stop the establishment from screwing them both. And the “Stop Trump” strategists will have to decide whether such blatant defiance of the express wishes of their own voters at Cleveland with Candidate X is worth potentially destroying the GOP once and for all.
In other words, the elites are still more dead than Jon Snow.  So what’s likely to happen now? 
1. The Trump ComebackFor the next few days at least, media pundits will discuss the dismantling of the Trump bandwagon with thinly disguised glee. That is, until they realize how much he helps the ratings. Without Trump dominating the news, what else are they going to talk about—issues? Probably by next week, the media narrative will feature the beginnings of Trump’s comeback.
2. The Cruz Cavalcade GrowsMeanwhile, the professional, even ruthless, Cruz campaign will continue to siphon off delegates wherever they can find them. The senator will score at least a few more victories—and maybe even have a battle to the finish in California. All of which means Cruz will have hundreds of devoted supporters descending on Cleveland with no love for the entrenched veterans of official Washington.
3. A Trump-Cruz PartnershipBoth candidates will arrive at the convention with a vested interest in permitting only one of two names to be placed in nomination—and they’ll collectively have the vast majority of delegates to enforce their will. Whether the two manage a more permanent partnership, as in a ticket together, seems almost unimaginable. But so was the idea that JFK would pick a man he despised, Lyndon B. Johnson, for vice president in 1960, among a half-dozen other odd-couple pairings in U.S. political history. 4. The Romney Do-Over Do-Over?There is one more sensible size 11 shoe that might drop. And that’s Mitt Romney deciding the third time’s the charm—making his interest in a “draft” at the convention a bit more obvious than it is already.
My prediction? Trump and Cruz, who have both come to prominence detesting and being detested by the GOP establishment, will find a way to upend that establishment once again. But whatever happens next, Wisconsin, you deserve the thanks. Or blame. We’re not sure yet.

Keep the popcorn coming.  The spectacle will continue to be interesting to watch.

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