There’s a bit the Three Stooges always did where Curley puts one arm in the jacket sleeve of a guy they’re fighting, and spins around, punching another guy they’re fighting in the face. As he spins, the guy wearing the jacket takes the counterpunch, and on and on it goes until both of them fall from beating each other up while Curley is untouched.
Forgive the silly reference, but Curley is Donald Trump, and he’s got his arm firmly in Ted Cruz’s jacket.
Marco Rubio arrives in Nevada, delivers 34-minute stump speech, doesn't mention or refer to front-runner Donald Trump even once.
— Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) February 22, 2016
Reid Epstein covers Rubio (among other candidates) for the Wall Street Journal. He covers how Rubio and Cruz beat each other to a pulp while Trump just spins around untouched.
The strategy has been to hold off on Trump until the “numbers are right” so you can attack from a position of strength. It worked for Cruz in Iowa. Now Rubio is trying the same tactic, but there’s one yuuuge problem: He’s out of time.
Between now and March 15, 1,047 delegates will be awarded (including 30 from Nevada today, of which Trump will likely take the bulk). Then we get into winner-take-all territory with Florida’s 99 delegates.
Trump has a lead in eight of the twelve states voting on March 1. It’s a given that neither Rubio nor Cruz will exit the race before then. If Trump wins over 400 delegates through March 2, he’ll have between 470 and 550 of 1,237 to win. By March 14, he could approach 700.
Granted, he could be stopped later in the race. But nobody wants to bet on this. In fact, the gaming has already started.
So does Cruz drop out of the race if he does so poorly on Super Tuesday that he takes 3rd in a state like GA?
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) February 22, 2016
He should, if that happens. https://t.co/vCTEPnFNze
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) February 23, 2016
It is silly to bounce around dropout demands. But now we’re dealing with a Trump sure thing if Cruz and Rubio don’t hit him, hard, repeatedly, and starting now.
There is so much rich material in the Trump negative chest. It’s such a target-rich environment that both Cruz and Rubio could spend hours exploiting it, in person, in ads, and in messaging. For some reason, they’re scared of the backlash, that it will actually help Trump and hurt them.
This is the classic dilemma known as the “tragedy of the commons” where the behavior of the system as a whole can only be helped if two or more actors in the system cooperate seemingly against their own self-interest. Let’s state it this way:
(1) The only way to stop Trump is for Rubio and Cruz to hit him together;
(2) Only one of Rubio or Cruz will make it to the nomination fight or neither of them will;
(3) Therefore, Rubio and Cruz must remove Trump first before attacking each other.
But they don’t do it. Rubio simply ignores Trump like the 800-pound gorilla doesn’t exist, and Cruz engages in futile trolling which only pulls him deeper into the muck of his own private pigpen.
As June Carter Cash sung, time’s a wastin’. Trump benefits while Rubio and Cruz slug it out. They should both hit Trump hard, let him go all angry white dude on them, and let his Trumpkins show their jackass side (to borrow Disney’s current slogan). The harder they hit, the more Trump has to counterattack. Yes, there’s risk: maybe Kasich will find a way to play the “nice guy” and get a few votes. But no endeavor worth anything comes without risk.
Playing it safe has only one result: Trump takes the nomination. Playing for time, waiting until later in the race is a fool’s errand.
Hit Trump now, hit him hard, leave a smoking hole where Trump once was. Remove him from the race. Make him an ex-candidate. Force him to go third party. Do whatever you have to. But do something!