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This seems to be a day for people calling on other people to drop out of the race. Ted Cruz has been trolled by Trump supporters. Trump has called on Rubio to drop out. And now Ted Cruz has called on both Rubio and Carson to drop out if they don't win a state today.

Ted Cruz on Tuesday suggested that GOP rivals Marco Rubio and Ben Carson should drop out of the presidential race if they don’t win a state on Super Tuesday.

The Texas senator, who's positioning himself to be the alternative to Donald Trump, called on his opponents to unite behind one candidate to take on the GOP front-runner. Both the Florida senator and retired neurosurgeon have yet to win a state.

“If tomorrow morning, a candidate is sitting there and he’s won zero states and doesn’t have a credible shot at getting the delegates, then I do think it’s worth a candidate thinking about coming together and uniting behind,” Cruz said in a Tuesday interview on "The Mike Gallagher Show."

"I do think what today will do is help narrow the field. We need to get to a one-on-one battle with Donald Trump," Cruz continued.

I think the advice should be heeded but for a lot of reasons neither Rubio nor Carson are going to drop out. One for reason of ambition the other because his campaign is actually his income stream. But, if the name of the game is actually "Stop Trump", and I've made it very clear that I don't see where there is hint that that is actually the game we are playing, then two candidates need to go away.

Other than self-immolation, literal or figurative, the only way that Trump is going to be stopped is by a) consolidating the field, b) creating a contested convention by preventing Trump from winning on the first ballot, or c) by a mythical third party.

The only real chance of those is consolidation but even there the odds of it being either feasible, as a matter of fact, or efficacious are remote. The real barrier is that both Cruz and Rubio are in a very tight race for second so neither man has an interest in getting out of the race. By the same token, quitting a race isn't going to help your political career while staying in the race and giving a convention speech probably will.

Right now Trump is polling higher, nationally, than Cruz and Rubio combined. Cruz and Rubio are within the margin of error of one another. It is your judgment whether you see the small Rubio advantage as evidence of "Marcomentum" (they should horsewhip whoever came up with that stupid portmanteau word) or as a statistical blip that will disappear.

gop trump preference

Said another way, 61% of the GOP electorate is arrayed against Cruz and Rubio.

But things are not as straightforward as they seem. Where Rubio gets weaker if Cruz and Carson get out, Cruz gets stronger if Rubio and Carson go home.

Remember, the whole theory has been that anti-Trump support would “consolidate” behind an anti-Trump candidate. Good luck waiting for that to happen for Rubio if Trump is approaching 40% in Marco’s home state or nearly 50% in northern, moderate states like Massachusetts.

And would the pro-Rubio Party elders explain to us please how someone can consolidate support by winning no states against Cruz, who at least might win his home state and one other, and who has a loyal and broad base of support for fundraising?

Ironically, if Cruz and others drop out that would HELP Trump almost as much or perhaps more than Rubio, based on second choice preferences of voters, as well as the common sense understanding that protest, anti-establishment voters who are now split between Trump and Cruz, and to a lesser degree Carson, would prefer another anti-establishment candidate like Trump over the former Tea Partier turned Mitt Romney-wing standard bearer, Rubio. This excellent Bloomberg piece offers a thorough argument against the consolidation theory, but here are key highlights:

  • “Kasich fans are torn between Rubio (24 percent), Trump (16 percent) and Cruz (10 percent).”
  • “Ben Carson supporters split between Cruz (24 percent), Trump (22 percent) and Rubio (16 percent).”
  • “Cruz supporters split 33 percent for Rubio and 26 percent for Trump.”

Does that sound like the others dropping out and consolidating behind Rubio will close a 15, 20, or 25+ point gap with Trump? Rubio will actually fall further behind if Carson drops out, and he’ll get an edge of 8 points from Kasich supporters, which is 8% of Kasich’s 9% of the national vote or so, or about <1% of a margin. Super. Meanwhile Cruz in this poll might help Rubio a bit (7% spread) if he drops out, but again, Trump inches closer and closer to 50% as Rubio tries to close a 15-20 point gap a few points at a time. There are other polls and other reasons to believe Rubio wouldn’t get anywhere close to enough of a boost from Cruz voters. The two Senators simply motivate people for quite different reasons (for example one of Cruz’s pillars of support is evangelicals, a group Trump’s running surprisingly strong with).

On the other hand, if Rubio took one for the team Cruz might see a more serious benefit on top of his already more competitive starting position: “The NBC/SurveyMonkey poll found that Rubio supporters prefer Cruz over Trump as their second choice by a margin of 31 to 17 percent.”

The idea that Rubio has a natural advantage as the election moves north is simply laughable. He is in a statistical tie in Minnesota. He is in third in Ohio. Where he is in second, like in Virginia (or like Nevada, for that matter) he lags by double digits. No one can point to a single state and stay "Rubio has got ---- locked up" and it is because he isn't winning that Rubio will not, and should not, be the nominee.

I could drill more and more into these sort of considerations (check out this helpful analysis from Vox if you’d like more), but you’ll find the situation looks similar from most angles. As one additional data point, Cruz actually isbeating Rubio at fundraising as well. In all fairness, Cruz has some issues down the road also with later states. But everyone in the party and watching this closely knows damn well there won’t be a “down the road” if Trump keeps steamrolling a divided field while Rubio runs third nationally and wins nothing, not even his own state! There will be a bandwagon effect. You’re already seeing it with Christie, LePage and Sessions endorsements within the last week. The establishment’s dam is breaking. People will move towards Trump. The oppo attacks that haven’t worked for 7 months aren’t going to suddenly break through Trump’s bedrock of 35%+ support because of a breathless week of punches from Rubio (who by the way is in an exceptionally weak position to attack Trump for ties to fraudulent for profit universities,insinuations of financial difficulties, and being soft or opportunistic on illegal immigration).

For a contested convention to work, Cruz and Rubio have to amass enough delegates to prevent Trump from winning on the first ballot. And, if the polls are accurate, they have to do that with second and third place finishes in an environment that, on March 15, starts including winner-take-all states. If Trump starts to flag and he begins to lose some winner-take-all states and finish with a lead in low single digits in most proportional states this could happen. Right now no one can identify which states Trump will lose because the polls show him winning.

The pipe dream that has been shared in some circles, is just that. Not only is time against anyone trying to gain ballot access, the only names that have been floated to lead this banzai charge into the Trumpian machineguns are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Seriously. Of the two, Romney is actually the most serious because he, alone, could put together the funding and organization to make this happen. Then his problem becomes the same as it was in 2008 and 2012: people just don't want to vote for the guy. Rick Perry was my first choice in 2012 and one of my top three this years abut a guy who couldn't gain traction, once against the incredibly weak 2012 field, is not going to lead anything but a humiliating rout.

I've never figured out why people who can't win in a two-party system seem to think that all they have to do is divide one of those parties more-or-less in half (in his case, we are talking a lot less than half) and you can win. I blame Common Core. Ben Domenech, at The Transom, identifies the problem perfectly.

Here’s the problem with this idea, though, even as I’m sympathetic to the motivations: http://vlt.tc/2apq  It’s possible that today Donald Trump is going to take a significant step toward winning the GOP nomination fair and square. That is, Republican voters are going to affirmatively select him as their candidate for president. A Rick Perry Constitution Party run that takes 5-10 percent of the vote and hands the election to Hillary Clinton will be viewed for what it is: a spoiler.

The #neverTrumpers seem to think the country will thank them for saving the country from Trump and then choose from among our preferred candidates in 2020. But why would they think that? It's not like Trump and Trumpism will die in November. And if Hillary appoints Eric Holder to the Supreme Court, imposes cap and trade by fiat, starts a war on bakers and religious colleges and such... Republicans will declare it all awful, and Trump will say, "Thank THEM! I would have put Ted Cruz on SCOTUS, undone the carbon rules, and passed a law [sic] to protecting bakers and nuns and schools. I would have made America GREAT! Sad." The potential for post-Trump ruin is just as strong.

Does #neverTrump – however good it makes people feel – look like a remotely good idea in that context? It’s hard to see how. Regardless of whether Trump wins the nomination and loses or wins in November, his movement is not going away. The future of the party does not go back overnight to being the party of George W. Bush. Conservatives can absolutely say their principles prevent them from supporting Donald Trump as a personal matter, but they should not fall for the temptation to act like the establishment they loathe so deeply when it comes to a nominee they dislike, or pretend that all of this will go away when he does. Giving up on the Republican Party is one thing – I have no quarrel with that. But whatever party you form next will need Trump supporters too in order to win – and that’s a fact.

None of that really matters because it is readily apparent that unless the field consolidates very, very rapidly -- in my view we are maybe two months beyond where consolidation would have changed anything -- or his poll numbers start tanking, the mainstream GOP is going to move towards Trump with an increasing velocity. The people who are listening to McConnell's talk about senatorial candidates running anti-Trump ads must have forgotten about McConnell's promises to repeal ObamaCare. Every senator running for reelection has a positive interest in electing President Trump, because this is a difficult election year for the GOP senatorial class that is up for reelection and it is difficult to think of a scenario in which Hillary wins and Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey, and others survive.

If you doubt that the mainstream of the GOP is looking for an exit, and that exit is not named either Cruz or Rubio, I'd ask you to consider this:

How panicked should we be about the rise of Donald Trump? A professor at Harvard, Danielle Allen, recently published a widely shared op-ed piece in the Washington Post likening his rise to that of Hitler in Germany.

...

First of all, such Hitler hype has happened before, and been unwarranted. Steven Hayward, author of “The Age of Reagan,”recalls the rhetoric:

Democratic Rep. William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” The Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (later a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”...John Roth, a Holocaust scholar at Claremont College, wrote: “I could not help remembering how 40 years ago economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I​—to send the world reeling into catastrophe. . . . It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our postelection state with fear and trembling.”

...

The prospect that Mr. Trump would govern more soberly than he campaigns is another argument in favor of calming down. Confronted with a Democratic Senate or one with only a slim, non-filibuster-proof Republican majority and with a House of Representatives led by the big-hearted Speaker Paul Ryan, a President Trump would have to adjust to Washington reality.

Recent history, after all, has shown little connection between campaigns and governance. Bill Clinton campaigned on middle class tax cuts and gave us tax increases. George W. Bush campaigned on humility in foreign policy and gave us the Iraq War. Barack Obama campaigned against the individual mandate of Hillary Clinton’s health insurance plan, but ObamaCare wound up including precisely such a mandate. Mr. Obama campaigned as a uniter but wound up as a divisive president. Listen to Mr. Trump, and he’s pretty open about some of his more extreme positions being opening offers for deal-making negotiations.

I don’t expect to be voting for Mr. Trump. But I am not losing sleep over him, either.

Mitch McConnell and the US Chamber of Commerce could have just as easily written the same thing.