As expected, Il Duce has won big. But as expected, he was outvoted by the centrist candidates.
The trouble is that there are five of them.
John Kasich is the governor of a large state which the GOP must carry in order to win a presidential election. He is popular and on any showing has done a good job. Moreover, he's a smart cookie who I've had my eye on as a potential president for an awfully long time.
He decided to run to the left of the pack this year. Despite a reasonably conservative record, he seems to have made his peace with marriage redefinition (which he opposed before Obergefell) and doesn't talk much about abortion. Essentially he hasn't so much changed his position on controversial social issues as run away from them.
I can see not making these issues the centerpiece of your campaign, especially if you have an eye on the Fall election. But I find the degree to which he's simply abandoned them distasteful. I had a high enough opinion of John Kasich that my first instinct was to support him from the start. But he's made that impossible.
Now, I don't know how he's going to be able to appeal to the social conservatives he would need to win going forward. I can't see him doing well in South Carolina. We'll see about Super Tuesday. But I suspect that he's a one-shot wonder and that New Hampshire will be the high watermark of his campaign,
Jeb Bush looks to be on a pace to finish ahead of Marco Rubio and might still catch Ted Cruz for third place. Who'da thunk it? I suspect Chris Christie- having torpedoed the moderate wing's best shot at rallying around an early consensus candidate when he savaged Rubio in last Saturday night's debate- is finished. I expect him to drop out in the next few days.
Rubio is hurt, but he's a long way from dead. With Kasich not being viable in the long run, the centrist wing of the party will now have to choose between Rubio and Bush. Jeb has an albatross around his neck in his last name. He also hasn't exactly inspired great enthusiasm among the rank-and-file nationally. But he's hanging around. And the Center had jolly well better rally behind either him or Rubio in the coming weeks, or it's going to be a long election year for all of us.
Marco had better give the performance of his life in the next debate. Of the two, he's the more electable- and I still think he has a better chance of rallying the forces of reason against Il Duce and Cruz.