Democrats now find themselves in the unprecedented position of watching the Republican establishment trying to decide, not which of the two GOP frontrunners is the best for the party and the country, but rather which of the leading candidates is the "lesser of two evils," the "more dangerous," which one would mean the death of the party. In other words, which of the two would mean the least harm to the party and the country.
Not that sane Republicans have not been anguishing over this horrible conundrum.
Michael Gerson's "For the good of the Republican party, both Trump and Cruz must lose" was discussed here, including his memorable closing statement:
For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them.
Emmarie Huetteman quotes Senator Lindsey Graham: "If you nominate Trump and Cruz, I think you get the same outcome...Whether it's death by being shot or poisoning doesn't really matter. I don't think the outcome will be substantially different."
David Brooks, lamenting how rarely a party has "so passively accepted its own self-destruction," warns, "Very few presidents are so terrible that they genuinely endanger their own nation, but Trump and Cruz would go there and beyond."
Brooks calls Trump "a solipsistic branding genius whose 'policies' have no contact with Planet Earth and who would be incapable of organizing a coalition, domestic or foreign." Of Cruz he says, "He's always been good at tearing things down but incompetent when it comes to putting things together" and he begs of Republicans, "Please don't go quietly and pathetically into the night."
Others have lambasted one candidate without necessarily heaping praise upon the other.
However, as E.J. Dionne writes at the Washington Post:
Many Republicans are now alarmed that their choice may come down to Trump, the candidate of a reality-show populism that tries to look like the real thing, and Sen. Ted Cruz, an ideologue whom they fear would lead their cause to a devastating defeat.
Realizing the pickle they find themselves in, Republicans either continue to lament the poor choice they have, or are resignedly hoping that the least of two evils will be Donald Trump.
As The New Republic's Jeet Heer politely puts it in "The Classier of Two Evils":
With less than two weeks till the Iowa Caucus, the shape of the Republican race could hardly be more frightening for the Republican establishment. Both of the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, carry baggage that would make winning the general election a tough slog... And the surprise is that all signs are pointing to Trump being the establishment's favored candidate--or, more accurately, the lesser of two evils.
Heer also points to Senator Bob Dole's statement claiming that picking Cruz as the presidential nominee would be "cataclysmic," and the party would suffer "'wholesale losses' if Mr. Cruz were the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better."
Here are some other headlines clearly indicating the Grand Old Party's sense of resignation and desperation as it scrapes the bottom of the barrel:
• Jonathan Martin at The New York Times: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Republicans Argue Over Who Is Greater Threat
• Laura Clawson at Daily Kos: GOP establishment thought Trump was the ultimate nightmare. Then they got a look at Cruz.
• Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post:: The GOP Establishment Has Found The One Thing That Can Make Donald Trump Palatable: Ted Cruz
• Joan McCarter at Daily Kos: Republican establishment's hatred of Ted Cruz is warming them up to Donald Trump
• Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Republicans warm to the idea of President Trump
• Robert Schlesinger at US News: GOP Warms to Donald Trump in Anybody-But-Cruz Fervor
The phrase "caught between a rock and a hard place" seems particularly applicable here.