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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Marco Rubio’s very, very bad ‘Little Tuesday’

Donald Trump was as carefree as ever as he spoke in Jupiter, Florida, basking in two more primary victories (Mississippi and Michigan) while running his verbal dagger again and again through the corpse of what’s left of the Republican Party establishment on “Little Tuesday” night.

(Whereas last week was Super Tuesday and Super Saturday was a few days ago, yesterday’s elections were called “Little Tuesday” by the media.)

Marco RubioTrump later added a third win in the Hawaii caucuses, but it wouldn’t have changed the content of his speech much had he known he’d prevailed in the Aloha State.

Flanked by bottles of Trump Wine, Trump Water and uncooked Trump Steaks, Trump was in a euphoric mood, touting his many businesses and reaffirming the plethora of promises he’s made throughout the campaign.

He also callously attacked his rivals, once again calling Ted Cruz “lyin’ Ted” before concluding with a call for unity in the Republican Party. Sure, Donald, that’s likely to happen.

Indeed, he made it look like there’s no stopping the Trump train on Tuesday night. He might be right, too, as long as four candidates remain in the race.

Ted Cruz had a reasonable evening on Tuesday as well, winning handily in Idaho and taking second place everywhere else. Cruz narrowly edged out John Kasich in Michigan for the runner-up spot despite spending only a pittance of money in the state, a result which certainly doesn’t bode well for the Ohio governor who’s staked his candidacy on being the most viable Trump alternative in the struggling rust belt states of the upper Midwest.

Kasich also came in third place in Mississippi, but with only 8.8 percent of the vote, he didn’t qualify for any delegates.

The night was an unmitigated disaster for Marco Rubio, who garnered only 5.1 percent of the Mississippi vote on the way to finishing last among the Republicans still in the race there. Rubio also finished dead last in Michigan, earning a grand total of zero delegates from the night’s two biggest prizes.

Rubio didn’t win any delegates from Idaho either. It wasn’t clear whether he’d get any from his third-place finish in Hawaii, but with only 13.1 percent of the vote there, too, it’s going to be extremely tough for his supporters to take anything positive from Tuesday night.

The Rubio ship is well below the water line. Even winning in Florida next week can’t possibly save him in any meaningful way.

And perhaps even worse (if that’s possible), the media is now comparing Marco to Jeb Bush.

Shane Goldmacher of Politico writes, “With mounting losses and his chances that voters deliver him the Republican nomination near-nonexistent, Marco Rubio is flirting with the same political ‘death spiral’ that swallowed Jeb Bush only three weeks ago.

“He’s fending off rumors of quitting, defending undersized crowds and promoting polls that show him losing (even in his home state), while also whining about Donald Trump’s media coverage.

“All just like Jeb.”

Goldmacher notes Rubio is even using similar arguments and language to that employed by Jeb during his many months on the campaign trail, such as calling Trump “vulgar” and saying he’ll just have to “fight through” a rough stretch of the calendar.

The difference in tone is striking from just a few weeks ago when Marco claimed he was ascending and some pundits were even arguing that he was the candidate to beat since he’d racked up so many endorsements and seemed to be establishing himself as the Trump alternative.

Not anymore. With Saturday’s and now Tuesday’s results, Rubio has taken on the smell of death. Someone needs to open a window -- and quickly.

Marco’s continued presence in the race is alienating the #NeverTrump crowd

Marco Rubio’s continuing irrelevance will only serve to magnify the cries for him to get out of the race ahead of next Tuesday’s important Florida and Ohio primaries.

With each sorry showing, Rubio’s digging himself a bigger hole – not only in delegates, but also with the conservatives and Republicans who’ve stuck with him up until now.

And oddly enough, he’s even alienating the #NeverTrump crowd, who complain that Marco’s sabotaging their effort.

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent writes, “The only way to stop Trump now is to ally with Ted Cruz. But too many of the #NeverTrump brigade are really #NeverTed. They don’t want to look at the math, they don’t want to look at the road ahead, they don’t want Ted Cruz. They’d rather lose with Rubio and stay home in November than ally with Ted Cruz and even have a shot in November…

“Marco Rubio needs to get out of the race now to stop Trump and save the party and nation. That’s just the cold, hard, unpleasant reality.”

For some of us at least, it’s not all that unpleasant to think of Rubio’s exit. From the beginning the Florida senator has run a rather strange campaign, firmly denying for most of the months that he’s the “establishment” candidate and then somewhat embracing the role once Jeb Bush got out of the race.

Rubio’s continued to court the conservative vote along with “mainstream” Republicans, not fully fitting into either category. He’s done well in most of the debates, but his lack of credibility with the grassroots has finally started revealing itself at the ballot box.

And even before Tuesday’s primaries there were reports from a couple different sources that Rubio’s campaign was in disarray. First there was a CNN story on reported internal strife in the Rubio camp. Then came a really damaging AP piece on some unhappy Rubio donors.

Matthew Boyle of Breitbart reports on the AP story, “[S]everal high-dollar GOP donors conceded that Rubio isn’t what the party establishment made him out to be.

“’Just when Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio needs them the most, big-dollar contributors from the party’s wealthy main stream are having second thoughts about his future in the 2016 race,’ the AP wrote. ‘Fresh misgivings about Rubio’s path forward are the latest – and potentially the most debilitating – in a series of obstacles that threatens the Florida senator’s future in this rollercoaster Republican campaign.’”

If the money dries up, Rubio will be deprived of his only potential means to influence the Florida vote – ads.

I personally think Rubio should stay in the race at least until Friday. That way he’ll be able to take part in the final Republican primary debate Thursday night and continue the so-far effective one-two punch with Ted Cruz against Trump. Without Rubio on stage there will be one fewer voice highlighting Trump’s poor record – because we know John Kasich won’t have any part of it.

Now that Rubio is 2 for 24 in terms of states (and Puerto Rico) that have voted, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for Marco. The longer he stays in the more he angers the people who’ve supported him all this time.

He’s not running for reelection to his Senate seat, so perhaps Rubio sees running for president as his only “job” right now. If that’s the case, he’d better resign before he gets fired and loses any future prospect for winning a new one.

Hillary felt the Bern in Michigan. The Democrats are clearly in trouble

Finally today, I’ve largely refrained from reporting on the Democrat race, mostly because the two candidates are completely and utterly unacceptable to any segment of conservatives.

But what happened Tuesday night in Michigan is too good to pass up without a comment. Bernie Sanders beat frontrunner Hillary Clinton there despite the Democrat race being all-but over in terms of the delegate count.

It wasn’t so much a win for Sanders as it was a vote of “no way” to Hillary, even among members of her own party. It also takes away her claim of appealing to a national constituency.

Brendan Bordelon of National Review writes, “[A]fter a shocking defeat in Michigan on Tuesday night, Clinton faces an uncomfortable truth: The strong delegate lead she’s amassed is built largely on colossal wins in the South — including Tuesday’s blowout in Mississippi — with only a little help from razor-thin victories in the East and Midwest. And while the Democratic party’s proportional delegate allocation means that Sanders’s chances of coming back to wrest the nomination from her grasp remain slim, he has certainly given her reason to worry should she make it to November.”

I don’t really care about the Democrat race. As I’ve argued all along, both Clinton and Sanders are eminently beatable in the general election. That’s not to say November’s a lock for the Republicans – far from it – but if the GOP puts up a principled candidate, it should be easy to draw clear distinctions with the other party.

That’s where Trump enters the equation. He’s bragged that he’ll crush Hillary in the general election because he’s appealing to all sorts of new voters. Yet national opinion polls show he’s still viewed very negatively by over half of the public.

Will Americans really vote for a candidate who they don’t like?

If Trump and Hillary are on the ballot, it certainly appears they’ll have to do just that, one way or another.

If the Republican Party is unwilling to unite around Ted Cruz in the next week, it looks certain that we’ll either have four years of Trump’s bloviating or Hillary’s screeching to contend with.

That’s a fool’s bargain we shouldn’t be forced to make.

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