The writing's on the wall in the Republican Party: John Kasich will be the Party's nominee in 2016, with Marco Rubio as his running mate. Only the media's delight at continued Trumpian drama is keeping politicos and pundits from coast to coast from stating the obvious.
So as not to belabor the point, here are eight single-sentence reasons Kasich/Rubio is now almost certain to be the Republican ticket in 2016:
- Donald Trump needs 1,237 delegates to win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and not only will he not get to that figure prior to the Convention -- he'd need to win well over 50 percent of the remaining delegates to do so, and even during his current run as front-runner he's only won 46 percent of delegates -- he won't even get close enough to that mark to pass it via uncommitted delegates at the Convention.
- Ted Cruz and John Kasich staying in the race through Cleveland not only will ensure that Trump can't get close to 1,237 delegates via primary and caucus votes, it will also ensure that both men have a reasonable delegate total by the time they arrive at the Convention -- more than enough to keep both of them in the picture in the view of Convention delegates.
- Republican Party elders have more than enough clout to make sure that "Rule 40(b)" gets changed prior to or at the Convention, thereby enabling Republicans like John Kasich who haven't won a majority of delegates in eight states to nevertheless be considered for the nomination.
- After the first ballot in Cleveland -- during which no candidate will have the require delegates for nomination -- most of the delegates will be free to vote for whomever they wish, and while Ted Cruz has craftily planted his supporters in many delegations, it's not nearly enough to get him to 1,237 delegates on the second ballot.
- Whereas Ted Cruz is loathed by the Republican Party elite, has lost to Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polls 55 percent of the time since November 2015, and has no actual accomplishments in government to point to, John Kasich hasn't lost a single head-to-head poll to Hillary Clinton in 2016, is broadly if imperfectly acceptable to both Party elites and movement conservatives, and is far and away the most accomplished Republican primary candidate left.
- Marco Rubio has deliberately held onto his 172 delegates so that he can create a unity ticket with John Kasich in Cleveland -- a ticket that will begin with somewhere between 350 and 600 delegates on the first ballot at the Convention, depending upon how many delegates John Kasich wins going forward.
- Rubio is certain not to give his delegates away for free, nor to give them to his arch-enemies Cruz or Trump, nor to -- as some suppose -- merely fade into the background when he was and remains among the most ambitious politicians in the Republican Party.
- A Kasich/Rubio ticket would appeal to both mainstream Republicans (Kasich) and Tea Partiers (Rubio), to both white and Latino voters, to younger voters who want to see someone relatively young on the ticket, to those looking for a ticket whose members run the gamut from executive to legislative experience at both the state and federal levels, and to those who believe all members of a presidential ticket should hail from a major battleground state.
If all of the above occurs, as the conventional wisdom seems to now suggest it will, and the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, she'll begin the general election campaign down by double-digits to a man she hasn't polled well against for eight months or more -- basically since the beginning of the 2016 race.
The Republican Party is more than smart enough to see that Cruz's horrifying unfavorables -- somehow, incredibly, worse than Clinton's historically bad ones -- will sink his candidacy, especially when coupled with terrible head-to-head polling against Clinton or (per usual, much more dramatically) Sanders.
Meanwhile, Kasich's continued domination of Clinton in polling will convince Convention delegates -- who value electability above all else -- to put Kasich at the top of the ticket, and a known, reliable quantity like Rubio beside him.
Of course Bernie Sanders defeats Kasich by double-digits in the most recent polling, but Kasich and Rubio are both banking on the assumption that Democrats will, against all reason and hard evidence, nominate their least electable candidate.
And if they're wrong -- if Bernie's the nominee come Cleveland -- well, Bernie beats all the Republican candidates head-to-head, so at least (the Kasich argument will run) the Ohio Governor loses to Sanders by less than all the others.
Seth Abramson is the Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University) and the author, most recently, of DATA (BlazeVOX, 2016).