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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 10
No exit: Super Tuesday leaves a toxic Republican race
Section One
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No exit: Super Tuesday leaves a toxic Republican race

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Super Tuesday did not clean up the Republican presidential race as GOP insiders had hoped. Instead, it leaves the three most toxic candidates in place, with no apparent way out for the party.

To the consternation of GOP elites, Donald Trump solidified his lead by winning seven of the 11 states up for grabs on March 1.

But Trump is 'ridiculous,' a 'con man,' 'not smart,' 'a fake,' 'a phony,' and 'a twisted example of evil trumping good,' with neither 'the temperament nor the judgment to be president,' according to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

2008 Republican nominee John McCain joined the criticism of Trump, calling the candidate's statements on national security 'uninformed and dangerous.'

Ted Cruz shored up his position as the conservative alternative to Trump by winning his home state of Texas plus Oklahoma and Alaska.

But Cruz, too, is widely hated by the Republican establishment.

'If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,' GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham joked not long ago.

Marco Rubio managed to win Minnesota, using that single win as justification to stay in the race. But Rubio is perceived as a political lightweight, a view he seemed to confirm by trading schoolyard taunts with Trump during and after the last Republican debate.

Rubio's home-state approval ratings are now in negative territory and he may well lose the Florida primary to Trump on March 15, which would discredit his candidacy.

That leaves the Republican establishment - or what's left of it - scrambling to find a way of keeping Trump from winning the nomination.

Lindsey Graham, for example, was so desperate for a way to stop Trump that he even suggested backing Ted Cruz.

'Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means,' Graham said March 2, 'but & we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump.'

Graham's Senate colleague, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, has already said flatly that he would not support Trump even if he won the Republican nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said down-ballot GOP candidates should drop Trump 'like a hot rock' and run their own races, hoping to escape what he saw as an electoral disaster for the party.

Even Trump endorsers are starting to see fallout from their association. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - who has been reduced to playing the Pat Nixon role, standing in the background and gazing admiringly at the candidate as he speaks - was roundly denounced by a former campaign aide for his endorsement of Trump.

'Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald Trump is an astonishing display of political opportunism,' Meg Whitman, who was finance co-chair of Christie's abortive presidential campaign, said in a statement.

'Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey. Christie knows all that and indicated as much many times publicly. The governor is mistaken if he believes he can now count on my support, and I call on Christie's donors and supporters to reject the governor and Donald Trump outright. I believe they will. For some of us, principle and country still matter.'

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton swept the southern states by big margins but failed to put away challenger Bernie Sanders.

According to Real Clear Politics averages, Clinton now beats Trump in head-to-head polling by 52% to 44%. She loses to Cruz 48% to 49%, however, and to Rubio 47% to 50%.

Sanders, who enjoys the most favorable rating of any presidential candidate in the field, tops all three Republicans by wide margins: 57% to 40% against Cruz, 55% to 43% against Trump, and 53% to 45% against Rubio.

Sanders fares better than Clinton in each match-up among men, younger voters, and independents.

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