As Marco Rubio falls behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz by more than the margin of error in several polls, the left is beginning to have much in common with the GOP establishment, they would much prefer Marco Rubio as the GOP nominee than either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And given the choice between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, those same people would much prefer Donald Trump because Trump will make a deal.

Let’s start with full-blown panic. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post in Ted Cruz is more dangerous than Donald Trump.

Who would be a more dangerous president: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? This ghastly parlor game lacks a satisfying answer; either would be toxic for America. That the question is not fanciful makes it all the more terrifying.

Trump’s deficiencies are evident, increasingly so. He is a demagogue and a bully. He lacks both preparation for the office and ideological convictions. He has thought deeply about . . . nothing, except how to promote Donald Trump.

Cruz is a different, and in many ways more dangerous, character. Where Trump is emotional and impulsive, the first-term Texas senator is contained and methodical. Contrast Cruz’s canny embrace of Trump, his restraint in responding to Trump’s provocations, with Trump’s explosiveness.

Where Trump needs the ego balm of adoring masses, Cruz couldn’t care less what others think of him, except to the extent it might interfere with his ability to achieve his end. Just ask the Senate colleagues who join in remarkable, scarcely contained bipartisan loathing of the man.

Where Trump is driven to boast about his intelligence, Cruz remains quietly self-confident about his far superior intellect. You don’t hear him crowing about his Supreme Court clerkship or Harvard Law degree. Trump wants to show you how many magazine covers have featured him. Cruz simply wants to amass, and exercise, power. Publicity is an end in itself for Trump, a means to an end for Cruz.

In fact, Cruz is by far the more doctrinaire and ideologically extreme. You can see Trump making a deal — on taxes, on funding Planned Parenthood, on implementing Obamacare, you name it. Cruz, not so much. Jeffrey Toobin’s 2014 New Yorker profile of Cruz was fittingly titled “The Absolutist.”

Shorter: We are afraid of Ted Cruz because we can’t buy him and he doesn’t care what we think.

Will Rahn, in The Daily Beast, ponders Was Marco Rubio Overrated All Along? But the fear of a Cruz candidacy is what drives him to ask the question.

But the trend lines should be pretty obvious at this point: Cruz is surging at a good time, maybe a half-step too early; Trump has a legion of diehard fans and solid polling numbers; Rubio, meanwhile, is lagging behind. And if you don’t think Rubio can stop Cruz or Trump, the pickings get awfully slim.

So what if the Great Establishment Hope [ed. emphasis mine], the insurgent-killer so many of us were waiting for, never emerges? It’s kind of hard to process the Republican nomination coming down to a choice between the Senate’s least-popular showboat and a New York billionaire who’s basically been a liberal all his life. Perhaps that’s why we keep coming back to Rubio and Jeb and maybe now Christie.

But right now it looks like only Cruz and Trump have clear-ish paths to the nomination. Cruz takes Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire, and then those two duke it out for the Southern states.

Maybe it’s because the other guys just kept committing a series of own goals. Or maybe, when we look back at 2016, we will see it as the year when the GOP transformed into something more akin to the populist, nationalist, anti-immigrant parties we’re seeing in Europe—i.e. the kind of party for which Trump or Cruz would be the obvious standard bearer. Either way, this is starting to look like a two-way race between Trump and Cruz, which means Rubio and company are quickly running out of time to show they can win this thing.

The increasingly desperate and unsavory attacks made on Rubio’s behalf by his surrogates — using “neo-con” means you are an anti-Semite? Really? — indicates that he knows his moment is slipping.

Notice what is missing in this narrative?

There is no glee that the GOP is choosing a guy who is “unelectable.” There isn’t even a mention of Hillary Clinton. The reason the fear and loathing is so palpable is that the Democrats know it is going to take a miracle, an electoral deus ex machina, to drag Hillary’s tired, raddled, cellulite infused ass across the finish line. They know that Rubio is someone they can cut a deal with. With either Trump, for reasons Leon lays out, or Cruz, the party is over. If the post debate polls show Rubio losing ground to Chris Christie you are going to see full-blown, deck-of-the-Titanic-as-the-waves-lap-over-it, gibbering panic set in.