If you were in Washington watching the Republican debate last night, you might have felt a small tilt in the floor, or heard the plates rattling gently in their cupboards.So they've finally come to their senses and realized that Jeb doesn't have the mojo for this? And they're going to shift their allegiance to someone the party voter base is genuinely excited about?
That was the sound of the Republican establishment shifting its collective weight away from Jeb Bush -- and inching a little bit closer to their best available alternative.
Um, apparently not:
And no, it’s not Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina.Really? Who, then?
... The question you hear now is: Who’s the fallback?You're joking, Matt. Aren't you?
Chris Christie seems too damaged. Rand Paul seems too erratic. Scott Walker seems too much like Scott Walker.
To hear governing Republicans tell it, there are only two “nominate-able” candidates on the stage, aside from Bush. One is Marco Rubio, who has performed well in the debates, but who has yet to find a compelling theme or a foothold in New Hampshire....
The other is John Kasich. And he’s the guy Bush ought to be worried about.
It was Kasich, and not Bush, who scolded the debate moderator, CNN’s Jake Tapper, early in the debate for not focusing on policy. It was Kasich who forced himself into the foreign policy debate from the edge of the stage a few minutes later, refusing to be silenced. It was Kasich who dared to make a spirited defense of globalism, vowing to rebuild foreign alliances.Um, Matt? Republican voters hate foreigners. Maybe they liked Thatcher (when she seemed, to them, like Reagan's transatlantic twin), and maybe they briefly liked Tony Blair (when he seemed like the Mini-Me to flightsuit-era George W. Bush). But in general? Hate 'em.
In Kasich's longest stretch holding center stage in last night's debate, he urged caution on the Iran deal. At other times, he warned against shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood. This is not how you win Republican primaries.
... he’s the most successful sitting governor in the field, and he has already surged into double digits in New Hampshire.You know who was in double digits in the last New Hampshire primary? Jon Huntsman. How'd that work out for him?
Ahh, but Bai wants us to understand that the Establishment always gets its man:
It’s not an accident that the GOP nominated George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney in its last three competitive contests -- all of them establishment picks.Yes, and all of whom went on to lose the popular vote in the general election, a fact of which GOP voters are acutely aware.
So really? Party mandarins are going to dump Jeb for Kasich? Or Rubio? Two guys who (to use the formulation of Molly Ivins) don't have the slightest bit of Elvis in them?
Kasich certainly doesn't -- Elvis's accountant, maybe, but not Elvis. Rubio has a lot of Pat Boone in him -- he comes off as the kind of straight-A high school student who's never done anything that the teachers wouldn't approve of. He should debate in white bucks and a letterman sweater. Fiorina may not have any Elvis in her, but she could be Lesley Gore circa "You Don't Own Me," although I still think, as I suggested in the last post, that the party would prefer someone like Wanda Jackson in full rockabilly mode, especially given Jackson's later work as a Christian proselytizer at high schools. Trump, of course, is all bad boy -- not so much Elvis as Jerry Lee Lewis on his worst behavior. Carson seems more like Perry Como, but the skin tone alone presumably makes a lot of GOP voters feel as if they're flirting with danger.
But the best thing in Bai's column?
... establishment Republicans are already whispering not so quietly about the potential of a Kasich-Rubio ticket, if that’s what it takes to dispatch both Trump and Clinton.Seriously? They're finally pondering the third-party strategy, and that's their genius plan? Dull/Duller '16? The gods don't love me enough to grace my life with that gift.
Meanwhile, at The Washington Post, Matea Gold and Jenna Johnson say that Scott Walker's money people are pondering a Plan B:
There is mounting anxiety among Scott Walker donors about the direction of his campaign and increasing fears that it is running low on cash, leading to a growing consensus among some of the Wisconsin governor's biggest financial backers that he needs to make a dramatic change....So Bai says the disappointed Jeb money boys will gravitate to Rubio and Kasich, not Fiorina. Gold and Johnson say the disappointed Walker money boys are gravitating to Fiorina -- and to Rubio and Christie.
Stanley S. Hubbard, a Minnesota media mogul and top Walker donor, said that while he is sticking with Walker for now, he is considering also giving money to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, all of whom performed well at Wednesday's debate, he said....
Many prominent Walker bundlers came away from the debate uncertain who will eventually emerge as the leader in the crowded field.
"Last night didn't solve any questions," the Walker fundraiser said. "Who is it? Is it Carly? Is she going to be our Margaret Thatcher?"
And meanwhile, Trump and Carson are running away with the race.
The smart pundits keep telling us that neither Trump nor Carson can actually win the nomination because The Party Decides -- GOP insiders, Republican elected officials, and big conservative donors always get their candidate in the end. But this is the year that the party literally couldn't decide -- there were just so many choices, Jeb and Rand and Scott and Marco and Chris and Cruz and Kasich, that party muckamucks split their loyalties. Jeb did get the most money, but he didn't scare anyone else, because he's a listless sad sack and nearly everyone else is on the speed-dial of a billionaire or two.
So the party is basically a failed state, with no unified government. No wonder the untutored insurgents are on the verge of a complete takeover.