A lot of people are suggesting that Rubio and Kasich drop out, given Cruz's good performance in the voting Saturday. (Make sure you don't just look at the end results in Louisiana. Also look at Cruz's percentage of the early voting in contrast to his percentage of the votes cast yesterday.) Cruz does look more promising as an alternative to Trump now, and Rubio looks weaker. However, yesterday's results need to be combined with polling data about what would happen in the upcoming states if Rubio and/or Kasich were to drop out. If Cruz would lose in Florida and Ohio under a scenario in which Rubio and/or Kasich would drop out, whereas Rubio and/or Kasich would win those states if they stayed in, then I think they ought to stay in for now. (And my understanding is that Rubio was expected to win in Puerto Rico today. If so, he ought to at least wait until after that voting before dropping out.) Here's what I'd suggest doing:
- Run a lot of polling of the potential scenarios ahead, so that our planning can be based on that sort of data rather than being more speculative. A poll released late last week showed Rubio down just five points to Trump in Florida, with Cruz and Kasich each more than fifteen points down. Given Trump's call for Rubio to drop out and Trump's comments in the last debate about how Rubio may beat him in Florida by running so many negative ads against him (Trump), it looks like Trump is concerned about losing to Rubio in Florida. If Rubio is the only one who can beat Trump there, then Rubio probably ought to stay in the race at least until after Florida.
- Denying Trump a majority of delegates should be the first priority. If that requires letting two or more rivals to Trump remain in the race, then take that approach.
- The second priority, after denying Trump the majority of delegates, is to have one of his rivals get a higher minority percentage of the delegates. That way, Trump and his supporters can't argue that Trump should be given the nomination due to having the most delegates. Taking away that argument is important. Since it seems unlikely that Cruz or any other Trump rival would get a majority of the delegates before the convention, what Cruz (or Rubio if he were to improve later) should aim for is to get a higher minority of the delegates than Trump.
- Those of us who are voting should keep the strategy I've outlined above in mind. If you're in Florida or Ohio, and polling suggests that candidate X is the candidate in the best position to beat Trump in that state, then vote for that candidate. In other words, even if you're a Rubio supporter, vote for Kasich in Ohio if Kasich seems to have the best shot at defeating Trump there. If you're a Kasich supporter, but Cruz is best positioned to win your state, and winning your state is important for Cruz to get a higher minority percentage of the delegates than Trump, then vote for Cruz. And so on.
- Keep looking for a way to deny Trump the nomination even if he gets a majority of delegates. He probably won't get a majority. But make plans for that scenario, in case it happens. One approach that I've been considering, though it would have some drawbacks (as other approaches do), would be to change the rules before the convention so as to block Trump on the basis of the Trump University fraud case. Let's say that a presidential candidate gets a majority of delegates, then is caught on video committing murder. We have good evidence that he committed the crime, but he hasn't been convicted yet. Would anybody argue that the Republican party would have an obligation to nominate the man, just because he got the delegates? Surely not. I'd apply the same sort of reasoning to Trump. He's in the midst of a fraud case related to Trump University. The evidence against him is strong. Why is the Republican party obligated to commit electoral suicide by nominating such an individual, even if he has the delegates? Just deny Trump the nomination, even if he has the delegates. There are meetings already scheduled, before the convention, in which rule changes can be made. If a rule change seems needed to block Trump at that point, do it. You can qualify the rule change however you need to (e.g., any lawsuit pending against a potential nominee would have to be non-frivolous in order to disqualify the potential nominee), but rule changes should remain as options on the table.
In closing, I want to respond to a ridiculous article at Slate concerning Cruz as the Trump alternative. Isaac Chotiner writes:
"If Ted Cruz is the only alternative to Trump, it’s hard to see the Republican establishment uniting behind him. Cruz is hated in Washington D.C., and by media elites like Rupert Murdoch; he is also the only candidate thought to be as unelectable as Trump. If the choice is between these two men, it’s possible that #NeverTrump becomes #WhoCaresWe’reScrewedNoMatterWhat."
A sitting senator, Ben Sasse, is at the heart of the NeverTrump movement, and other Congressmen are part of the movement as well. Where's the Cruz equivalent? There isn't one. Cruz has sometimes worked with other senators on various pieces of legislation, and Lindsey Graham has said publicly that Cruz is better than Trump. Cruz would easily get more support than Trump among Cruz's senate colleagues and in Congress in general. And contrast Cruz's winning poll average against Clinton here to Trump's losing poll average here. Furthermore, Cruz has far better character than Trump, doesn't have anything comparable to or worse than Trump's history of scandals, is a better communicator than Trump, has been far more consistent on the issues, is far more knowledgeable of the issues, etc. Cruz has much better electability than Trump.