The Republican Party is in a struggle for its soul.
Donald Trump's foul-mouthed school yard bully tactics are working with the "tell it like it is" element of the GOP and Ted Cruz's religious vision of an American theocracy plays very well with Republicans who believe GOP stands for "God's Own Party." If the present trend continues and the GOP anoints demagogue Donald Trump or religious crusader Ted Cruz as their standard-bearer, it will mark the end of the noble party of Lincoln and TR, Ike and Reagan.
In addition to Trump and Cruz, three mainstream (read: moderate, rational) Republican voices are vying for attention: Ohio governor John Kasich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Each is a better option than Trump or Cruz, but John Kasich proved in the New Hampshire primary that he has the best shot at overtaking Trump.
Kasich earned 16 percent of the New Hampshire GOP vote -- not quite half the 35 percent Donald Trump drummed up. But if number-two-man Kasich had been able to add Bush's and Christie's supporters (11 percent and 7 percent, respectively), he would have virtually tied Donald Trump. New Hampshire's lesson is that it is time for reasonable Republicans to gather around the man from Ohio.
If Jeb Bush and Chris Christie care about their country as much as they say they do -- and there's no reason to doubt them -- and if they love the Republican party and want it to survive through 2016 and beyond, they should call a joint press conference for this afternoon, announce the suspension of their campaigns, throw their support behind John Kasich, and urge their supporters and Super PACs to do likewise.
The last great hope for the Republican Party this election season is in the hands of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. If the moderate vote continues to be diluted in a three-way split, The Donald will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States and the Republican Party will have lost its soul.
Rodney Wilson teaches American political systems at a community college in Missouri.