Rubio is the most viable Republican candidate

Marco Rubio has the best chance at getting the Republican party’s nomination. (AP Photo)
Marco Rubio has the best chance at getting the Republican party’s nomination. (AP Photo)

By Paul Mulholland

Since the modern primary system was introduced, no Republican has ever been nominated without winning in either Iowa or New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Primary uses a proportional system with a 10 percent threshold, with all remaining votes being awarded to the overall winner. Businessman Donald Trump won overall with 10 of the 23 delegates. John Kasich, current governor of Ohio, received four, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio each won three. Keep in mind that Cruz won the Iowa caucuses earlier this month. If history is any indicator, the Republican nominee will either be Cruz or Trump, the two “non-establishment” candidates. But history is no indicator this time around. Rubio will be winning the nomination.

The Iowa and New Hampshire contests award few delegates, which means mathematically speaking, any candidate still in the race could win.

Iowa and New Hampshire combined awarded 53 of the 2,472 delegates at the Republican National Convention, or about 2.1 percent. However, these two early contests signal to voters which candidates are viable and which ones are not. They encourage consolidation of similar voters (and donors) behind one candidate and abandon ideologically similar rivals, a form of strategic voting (or donating).

Republicans who want to win the general election will push for Rubio, despite his “robo-Rubio” moment in the ABC debate from Saturday, Feb. 6, during which he repeated the same line  several times about  President Barack Obama deliberately ruining America, even after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had called him out on it. All candidates rehearse segments for debates — he just got caught doing it.

Rubio, Bush and Kasich are all from strategic swing states (the latter from Ohio, while the two former are from Florida), and the Republicans need all the help they can get in the electoral college, since they can still easily lose while winning Ohio and Florida. However, polls from RealClearPolitics, a Chicago based polling aggregator, show that Rubio is more popular than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on the national level, something neither Bush nor Kasich can say.

Rubio is also Latino, a demographic that traditionally leans Democratic, and more moderate than Cruz, the only other Latino in the race. The only thing that might hold Rubio up is the fact that, according to an article from the New York Times from Monday, Feb. 1, pro-Bush super political action committees (PACs) have raised four times as much money as Rubio PACs. The issue with this observation is that the Rubio campaign has raised nearly as much money as the Bush campaign — between $29 million and $31 million — implying that Bush’s PACs have been raising money from large donors. This means that Bush’s money does not imply wide popularity and it is unlikely to make him popular.

One also might say that Cruz and Trump will just split the “anti-establishment” vote and leave Rubio to rise late. But this is an oversimplification. Although Cruz and Trump supporters overlap somewhat, they largely represent different demographics. If Cruz and Trump were in a great conflict over the same voters, it would be hard to explain why they both did so well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to a Washington Post article from Tuesday, Dec. 15, Trump’s base is men who have little education and little money. He has the largest gender gap of any candidate, with a margin of 19 percent separating male and female supporters. According to the same article, he is mostly popular with whites, he maintains decent support among black Republicans, but is unsurprisingly unpopular with Latinos.

Trump’s campaign of hyper-masculinity is a caricature of itself. Appeals to “Make America Great Again” by economic protectionism and military spending appeals to men who feel left behind in a globalized economy and really want to be “Great Again” themselves. Among men, Trump is particularly popular with those making less than $50,000 a year and without a college degree. Republicans without a degree are 13 percent more likely to support Trump than those with a degree, the largest gap of any Republican candidate. Educated male Republicans generally support other candidates, such as Rubio or Cruz — not because they are smarter and know more things, but because they gain economically from competing with less capital-intensive countries, while uneducated men lose by competing with labor-intensive countries.

Trump appeals to the sense of competition that uneducated white men feel toward foreign labor and their sense of envy toward educated or wealthy white men. The fact that Trump is rich makes this even better. He is their man on the inside and cannot be bribed by special interests. And of course, no discussion of Trump’s appeal is complete without mentioning political correctness, but that is too broad of an issue for this article alone.

Cruz, on the other hand, is more popular with women, older voters, evangelicals and people who emphasize social issues over economic ones. Cruz’s base is those who are very socially conservative, whereas Trump does better with moderates and independents. If these two candidates are not splitting the vote, then the “establishment” had better figure out who they are falling in with, and quick, since “Super Tuesday” is on Tuesday, March 1. On this day, 565 delegates of the 2,472 are awarded for the GOP and four of the states holding primaries that day have proportional systems with a 20 percent cut off, meaning that any candidate that does not receive at least 20 percent vote is counted as receiving zero percent. If the Republican field is not reduced to three or fewer candidates by then, it will be afterwards.

Rubio, the most viable “establishment” candidate and the most viable GOP presidential candidate overall, has appeal with moderates and strategic voters who care about winning in November. Rubio has the most to gain from a narrowing field, as most of the voters who support Bush, Kasich and Christie will likely flow to him. Many young men and moderates who support Trump may vote for Rubio, as well, when they realize Trump is very unlikely to win the general election. Cruz appeals to a minority of Republicans and cannot win on a purist agenda. Rubio’s robo-Rubio gaffe will fade because people have short attention spans when it comes to these sorts of things. Most events that a candidate holds on the campaign trail are not broadcasted, so they can get away with repeating the same lines over and over and over. Rubio forgot that national debates are different, but his strong performance at the debate on the Saturday, Feb. 13, demonstrated that he will not forget again.

Ultimately, the Republicans must favor electability over all else. Rubio gives them their best chance to win.

Students share opinions around campus

Is Rubio a viable candidate?

Owen Kaiser, freshman history and secondary education dual major.
Owen Kaiser, freshman history and secondary education dual major.

“(Rubio) is a bit too extreme to be president… I think someone such as John Kasich is a better fit for the job.”

Brenden Edgeworth, freshman psychology and pre-med major.
Brenden Edgeworth, freshman psychology and pre-med major.

“I have mixed feelings with Marco Rubio… I disagree (with him) on a number of issues.”