GOP establishment still standoffish over Cruz

Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane of the Washington Post report that Ted Cruz’s attempt to unify the Republican establishment behind his candidacy is encountering significant resistance. They note that backers of Marco Rubio are prominent among mainstream Republicans who aren’t supporting Cruz. And, of course, Rubio himself has not endorsed the Texas man.

Some distinctions are in order. Let’s start with Cruz’s colleagues in the Senate. As I understand it, only Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham (of all people) have come out in favor of Cruz.

I’d like to see a greater show of support. However, it may well be that many of Cruz’s colleagues don’t view him as preferable, all things considered, to John Kasich or even Donald Trump.

As for Rubio’s big financial backers, one suspects that many of them simply can’t stand Cruz. These folks are apt to be from the party’s center-right rather than the conservative core. Cruz’s strongly conservative views and his well-earned reputation as a “bomb thrower” are sure to have alienated large portions of this crowd.

Rubio is a different matter. He campaigned as a hard core conservative. There were very few issues as to which he disagreed with Cruz. Rubio also campaigned an outsider who is so alienated from the Senate establishment that he’s leaving the Senate out of contempt for the institution.

Rubio was also vehemently anti-Trump. No one who watched the debates could believe that the Florida Senator doesn’t prefer Cruz to Trump. And many of Rubio’s supporters would be very disappointed if it turned out that Rubio doesn’t prefer Cruz to the moderate Kasich.

Under these circumstances, it seems unconscionable for Rubio not to endorse Cruz. If, as some have said, Rubio is holding off because his financial supporters have urged him to, that strikes me as even worse. It would mean that Rubio is their tool.

There’s another dimension to this matter, however — the possibility of a contested convention. According to Sullivan and Kane, many “top Republicans” are hoping that a “brokered convention” will produce a nominee other than Trump or Cruz (and, perhaps, other than Kasich as well). Rubio may hope that a brokered convention will nominate him, though this seems almost inconceivable given the extent to which he has alienated supporters of the two frontrunners.

If there’s a strong possibility of a brokered convention even without leading Republicans rallying behind Cruz, then one can understand why leading Republicans are keeping their powder dry. If, on the other hand, it will take a unified front in favor of Cruz to bring about a brokered convention, that’s a different matter.

Right now, it looks like a contested convention is at least as likely as not. However, the reason why we’re talking seriously about the possibility of such a convention is that Trump has stalled recently.

Perhaps his stall was inevitable, but I’m of the view that it has a lot to do with important Republican figures standing up against the tycoon and backing Ted Cruz. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Mitt Romney in Utah are probably the best examples.

After Trump romped to victory in the Florida primary, the prospects for a contested convention didn’t look so good. Then and there, Rubio should have endorsed Cruz to maximize the chances that, as he liked to say, “the party of Abraham Lincoln will not be taken over by a con artist.”

Having failed to stand up and be counted then, Rubio should stand up and be counted now.

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