Elections

Carson and Rubio drop out

As the first half of primary elections draws to a close, the once incredibly crowded Republican field of presidential contenders has narrowed to businessman Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

As the first half of primary elections draws to a close, the once incredibly crowded Republican field of presidential contenders has narrowed to businessman Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

After disappearing entirely from the process following Super Tuesday primaries on March 1, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson ended his campaign on March 4. Once considered a top candidate during the summer, Carson faded into the background as Cruz began taking the stage as the conservative candidate and Trump solidified himself as the complete outsider. His strongest performance came at the Iowa caucus where he earned 9.3 percent of the vote. The Carson campaign contended that Cruz supporters had told caucus goers that Carson would be dropping out shortly to convince Carson supporters to vote for Cruz. Though Carson didn’t perform particularly well in any other state, he continued to campaign, likely as a slight to Cruz who continues to suffer attacks on his credibility. Following his decision to drop out, Carson decided to endorse Trump, further boosting support for the front-runner.

Following a loss in his home state, Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) also decided to give up the presidential fight. Though he had been considered a possible unifier of conservative and moderate factions, establishment supporters stayed divided among the moderates that ran, including Kasich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Among conservatives, Rubio’s attempts to help pass an immigration reform bill as part of the Gang of Eight have marred his tea party credentials. Rubio, who will not run for re-election in the Senate, seems like he will be exiting the political spotlight for at least the near future, though it is possible that he may join the ranks of former politicians who continue to influence politics from the shadows by lobbying.

Trump remains the frontrunner, and some of his recent remarks on the race have indicated that he has already moved on to focusing on the general election. Cruz remains the only choice for “true conservatives,” while Kasich is the standard bearer for anyone who wants the archetypal election winning formula: a moderate with executive experience and a reputation for improving the general state of constituents.
Unfortunately for Kasich, gone are the days when Republicans would prefer these traits. Instead, firebrands bent on upending the system are popular. Leading no longer means coming together and negotiating deals where neither side is completely happy, but both still work for the best for the country. Conservatives are sick of seeing candidates perceived as part of the establishment continue to “betray” them in Washington, notably exemplified by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the standard bearer of fiscal conservatism a mere four years ago, who is now perceived as a big spending liberal.

With Kasich standing as the last traditional candidate in the Republican field, the establishment power brokers have a difficult decision to make. They could lend support to Kasich and Cruz in an attempt to engineer a brokered convention, or they can rally behind the Trump insurgency. The first would put the party into potentially irreparable chaos. The second would put Trump at the top of the Republican ticket.