On the morning after South Carolina, the world looks a lot bleaker
But I was also excited, because Jeb's departure opened the door for Marco Rubio, the last real Republican hope for sanity, to united those Republican voters who dwell in the same reality as the rest of the world against the double-barreled threat of extreme, unethical Ted Cruz and goofy demagogue Donald Trump, whose personality seems to me to parallel that of Benito Mussolini so closely that it's frightening.
This morning, I am less sanguine. To begin with, there's the matter of John Kasich, another bright, talented and decent man who isn't going to be elected president this year. Kasich will have his moment in the sun during the first 15 days in March when Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Virginia, and Wyoming all have their primaries or caucuses.
That's right- 31 states and territories in 15 days. Several- Florida, Illinois, Massachusets, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, come to mind- are states in which Kasich should do well and might even win.
And that's a problem, because if he does as well as he has the potential to, he's not going to get out of the race.
Which means that the "sane lane" votes will still be split between Rubio and Kasich. Although he has no real chance at the nomination, there is no incentive for Kasich to get out of the race before it's too late and Il Duce has the nomination wrapped up.
And then, there's that MSNBC poll I read about in the comments on Gene Veith's blog. It shows that the second choices of Jeb's supporters break down as Rubio: 19%, Kasich: 16%, Cruz: 12%, Trump: 11%, Carson: 9%, Don’t know: 23%. Frankly, I'm shocked that anybody supporting Jeb would have Cruz, Carson, and especially Trump as their second choice, and I'm rather suspicious of polling done by the Fox News of the Left in any case. I'm all the more suspicious because MSNBC is perceived as pushing Trump as a potential Republican nominee given his weakness as a general election opponent for Hillary or Bernie.
But getting only 19% of Bush's supporters wouldn't help Rubio much even if Kasich did get out. One thing to bear in mind, of course, is that he would also figure to get the lion's share of that 23% who are undecided as to their second choice since he clearly is the only "sane lane" candidate with a chance. And the poll was taken before South Carolina when the race had an entirely different dynamic. Now that Jeb is actually out and the realities of a likely Trump nomination are beginning to sink in, many of those Jeb supporters who had different priorities last Thursday, when the poll was taken, might well give Marco a closer look.
But I've been blithely assuming that Jeb's supporters would more or less automatically transfer to the remaining viable candidate whose positions are closest to his. That isn't necessarily the case.
Things get even more depressing when you look over at the Democratic race. The process of Hillary Clinton being elected despite the criminal charges hanging over her head- as Lindsey Graham put it, "dishonest beats crazy-" after the GOP self-destructs by nominating Trump is bad enough. But according to a Fox News poll, Bernie Sanders has taken the national lead among Democrats for the first time.
I'm not sure I believe that for the same reason I'm skeptical about the MSNBC poll, but it still scares the living crap out of me.
The bottom line remains what John Podhoretz says in his remarkably perceptive article this morning. Barring a miracle, the GOP is going to self-destruct by nominating the scariest presidential candidate of my 65-year lifetime. The only way to stop him is for the sane people in the Republican party to unite behind one candidate, and fast.
I see only one glimmer of hope. Kasich has practically no organization in his own home state of Ohio. While I fear that this won't happen, perhaps he'll lose Ohio. Perhaps he won't do as well on Super Tuesday as he looks poised to. Perhaps my original scenario will play out after all, and he'll drop out after that storm of primaries and caucuses in the first two weeks and a day of March and endorse Rubio. Perhaps, if John Kasich is as big a man as I think he is, he might do it anyway, realizing that it's the only way to stop Trump and save the party.
The problem is, by that time it may be too late.