We are five days away March 1, when nearly 600 delegates will be awarded to GOP nominees, the most in any single day. Contrary to the conventional wisdom you'll find on Morning Joe or the Fox News Channel (from about everybody but Dana Perino, Megyn Kelly and Greg Gutfeld), Donald Trump does not have this race locked up.
Tonight's debate is going to be an indicator of what Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are going to do in order to secure a solid second place spot in order to say after Super Tuesday, "It's time to rally around one candidate in order to beat Donald Trump."
Donald Trump, outside of the first several debates, was happy to fade into the background and not speak all that much. It makes sense. Aside from generalized statements about "Winning" (as if he's Charlie Sheen) and hurling insults at other candidates, Trump has almost zero idea what he's talking about. When he tries to elaborate on policy, it's a half-assed attempt where he says a whole lot of nothing.
That won't work tonight as I think both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will go after Trump - not on goofball personality issues but on policy ideas and what his solutions are. The time has come for the two of them to stop attacking each other and go at Donald Trump with both barrels.
As a candidate, Trump is an empty suit. He has managed to win thus far, not by persuading people, but by tapping into the anger out there among a portion of the GOP electorate. The anger over immigration. The anger over a recovering economy that is not producing jobs. The anger over the supposed exile of jobs to China and elsewhere around the world. The anger over political correctness.
Anger however, is only going to get Trump so far which is the reason he polls around 30%-35% (The Nevada caucus is an anomaly outside of being a complete joke). People are angry but most of the GOP electorate is looking for something beyond anger and something positive for the future. Despite Trump's promises to "Make America Great Again", all of it stems again from that anger, not the positive message Ronald Reagan delivered with, "It's Morning In America, Again" in 1984.
So it is critical that both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio make the case in the debate tonight that Donald Trump is simply not an acceptable person to be President of the United States of America. They can make this case. However, if their people are telling them to go at each other, they are making a fatal mistake as Trump will sit back and simply laugh quietly to himself.
In the sense they are punching, neither Rubio and Cruz cannot afford to "punch down" at each other.
Let me explain:
- Cruz is leading in Texas by the smallest of margins over Donald Trump. It won't help him to go after Rubio.
- By the same token, Rubio has surged in other SEC states now that Jeb Bush is out of the race. He needs to look to solidify his standing in some of those states and even look to overcome Trump's lead. It makes no sense to attack Cruz.
Trump has to be the target. Forget about John Kasich and Ben Carson who will be on the outer edges, waving their arms and speaking nonsense.
This is a three person debate.
Donald Trump is the target.
I think Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are going after him.