Call it “collateral damage,” but in his full-scale assault on Donald Trump, Marco Rubio may ironically have damaged Ted Cruz’s campaign more than Trump’s, not only in Texas, but across all 13 Super Tuesday states.
Rubio’s repeatedly calling Trump a “con man” and nailing Donald for hypocrisy in hiring illegal aliens and for the ongoing lawsuit over Trump University has taken media attention almost entirely away from Cruz in the run-up to Tuesday’s primaries. This could change, but as of this weekend, the Texan is barely mentioned, even on Fox News.
Trump for his part is insulting Rubio non-stop — accusing him of having big ears, sweating too much and “choking” (spelled alternatively with a “ck”), the usual stuff — as if the Floridian were his prime adversary. And at this point he probably is, partially thanks to Trump.
Actually, Trump and Rubio are doing each other a favor — Trump by elevating Rubio and Rubio by hitting Trump with accusations he must be prepared to face in the general election.
The Clintons will undoubtedly come up with a lot more, because a scorched-earth policy is all they have. They certainly can’t talk about Hillary’s non-existent foreign policy achievements (or as Carly Fiorina aptly put it, airplane flights). And as Hillary’s mainstream media claque well knows, she is confronting vastly more serious accusations than Trump’s mere civil lawsuit in the FBI’s criminal investigation of possible national security violations on her email server. She is the one in greater jeopardy and it’s good for Donald to get enough of his peccadillos out in the open in advance, assuming he is nominated, which, as of now, we can.
Meanwhile, Rubio, a young man, is positioning himself well for the future — and not just by showing he has the belly for a fight. By highlighting Trump’s illegal alien hirings, the Florida senator takes some of the onus off his own participation in the Gang of Eight, a persistent albatross around his neck with the Republican base.
In actuality, the real policy distinctions between Trump, Rubio and Cruz moving toward Super Tuesday are minimal, the mud slinging caused by last-minute desperate political jockeying and what Freud called the “narcissism of small differences.” The only meaningful distinction is that Trump is often less detailed in his positions, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
In broad stokes, however, all three Republicans are close to identical, especially compared to their Democratic opposition. All three would build up the military, abrogate the Iran deal and move more forcefully to destroy ISIS. All three would be tough on Islamic immigration from the Middle East. All three would lower taxes and reduce regulations. All three would appoint conservative judges, oppose abortion and support religious freedom and the Second Amendment. All three would build a security fence on our southern border, revamp theDepartment of Veterans Affairs and abolish Obamacare. All three oppose Common Core, disdain the Department of Education and the EPA, encourage oil drilling, and reject global warming as “settled science,” etc., etc.
So what we have is largely a battle of personalities underscoring the more important issue of which one of these men can get the above accomplished. As of now, the Republican electorate is obviously saying that is Donald Trump. In their view, professional politicians have had their chances and failed. It’s hard to argue with that.
That is the key to Trump’s advantage in almost all the polls leading to Super Tuesday. The outlier is that Cruz still has, on average, the lead in his home state of Texas. Ironically, as I have mentioned, by taking it to Trump (and because he has been a good finisher of late), Rubio may be cutting into the Cruz vote in the Lone Star State and throwing that election to Trump or making it closer to dead heat (a big loss for Cruz). We shall see.
The roughly twenty percent disadvantage Rubio faces against Trump in Florida seems almost insurmountable in the two plus weeks the Florida senator has to make it up. It would take a miracle or some huge flub by Donald to overcome it. It’s hard to imagine what that would be. And that’s not even counting whatever bump Trump received from the Chris Christie endorsement. Or he might get from the announcement of this potential chief-of-staff.
As I have written before, the Fat Lady has probably already sung. And that being the case, Trump should soon lessen his attacks on his Republican opponents and start to turn to the general election, continuing to do the unexpected by making an immediate serious play for African American and Hispanic voters. (The Democrats have exploited them for years and, deep down, many know it.) Fight the enemy on her own turf or, as we know from tennis, when your opponent is proud of his forehand and is protecting his backhand, attack the forehand first.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His next book – I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already – will be published by Encounter Books in June 2016.