WASHINGTON – As expected, the Iowa Republicans gave most of their votes to Texas Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire Donald Trump, the acknowledged “outsiders”. (The unexpected is that Trump did not win, after all).
Rubio strong third
But Marco Rubio finished in a strong third place, just 1% behind super (national and Iowa) favorite Donald Trump. And, in this political season dominated by anti-establishment sentiments, Rubio has the disadvantage of being just one among many “Establishment Candidates”.
This means that all those Republican caucus voters who did not want to vote for Trump or Cruz, (the “insurgents”), could choose among many “traditional candidates”: Rubio, Bush, Kasich, Christie, (may be Fiorina as well). In other words, their votes have been fragmented, with many going to real losers.
If the others withdrew
Given this, allow me some (a bit arbitrary) calculations. Let’s assume for a moment that all those who supported the other “Establishment Candidates” would gladly support Rubio if their pick had withdrawn from the race. Well, just looking at the final results in Iowa, in such a hypothetical scenario, Rubio, would have won.
Remember, Rubio came in a close third with 23% of the votes. If you add the 2% to 3% each of the other centrists got, we come to and additional 9% or 10%. Well, Rubio came in third at 23%. With that additional 9% or 10%, Rubio would have been the Iowa winner.
Look, I know that in real life it does not work this way. Who knows exactly where Bush’s votes would go to, if he withdrew from the race today. Still, the fact is that in this peculiar campaign, dominated at this stage by noisy populists, there is really no room for more than one “non-insurgent” candidate. And Rubio, at least for now, seems to be the man.
Pick a winner
If the others (Kasich, Bush, Christie, Fiorina) care to have someone better than Trump or Cruz to run against Hillary Clinton in November, (despite his remarkable success in Iowa, Bernie Sanders still looks a most improbable nominee), they should withdraw from the race and throw their enthusiastic support behind Rubio, the only one among them who seems to get real traction.
Of course, all this would entail political courage, vision and, yes, patriotism. By staying in the race without any chances whatsoever of winning, the other centrists who did so poorly in Iowa are only fragmenting precious moderate votes.
Give moderate Republicans a real candidate
By withdrawing in a coordinated manner, and signaling their full support for Rubio, they would give the Florida Senator a real chance. This needs to be done, and fast.
Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa is almost like a victory, since he was not at all a favorite. But, in order to get the GOP nomination, you need to be number one at the end of the primaries. Finishing number three or even number two may get you an honorable mention, but it does not get you into the White House.
If Kasich, Bush and the others do not want to have Cruz or Trump as the next President, then they better support Rubio. By now, they should know that they do not have a chance to win the Republican nomination. All this can change.
Still, whether it is Rubio or someone else within this group, one thing is clear. There is room for only one of them. The “Establishment Candidates” should have the courage and the humility to accept this simple fact. United behind one candidate, hopefully the best among them, they stand a chance.
By staying all in the race, they fragment precious votes and they do not create a strong alternative to Trump.