Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio talk after a Republican presidential primary debate, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Unite or Die

“To truly beat Trump and keep his supporters from completely fleeing, Trump must be beaten in the primaries, not on the floor of the convention. And it is still mathematically possible, but it requires Cruz to win Florida, not Rubio.”

I had intended yesterday to write a post that Cruz needs to concede Florida to Rubio. We needed Rubio to win Florida to stop Trump. I got sidetracked because of illness in the family, job stuff, and a book party I had to attend for my new book. I missed the day. I missed the Romney press conference. I missed the start of the debate. I have stayed up most of the night reviewing it all. It is now after 4 o’clock in the morning and I have come to a conclusion.

The Republican leadership is damn insane if it wants a brokered convention and Mitt Romney should shut the hell up. It is clear the GOP has not one fundamental clue about what is happening and Romney might as well have poured gasoline on himself and struck a match. It was the same stupidity that caused Project ORCA and does nothing but embolden Trump supporters.

And that leads me to Marco Rubio, who I adore, consider a friend, and have stood by and defended even as so many of my friends cast him aside feeling betrayed by him doing what he thought was right with the Gang of 8.

That the Rubio team is openly stating they intend to have a brokered convention is the signal that Rubio needs to get out now. If Rubio does win Florida, all he will do is generate a brokered convention. Him winning Florida will require major resources, leaving Ohio to Kasich, the field divided, and uncertainty reigning. Rubio winning Florida would be a pyrrhic victory causing a brokered convention delegitimizing the winner and stigmatizing the GOP, putting it beyond repair. At this point, with emotion so raw and distrust so deep, Rubio engineering a brokered convention would not guarantee his win, but would guarantee the party seems like a politburo of the same heavy handed fools Rubio’s family fled.

Marco Rubio can win Florida and if he absolutely refuses to get out, we should let him win Florida, but he needs to understand that the consequence of that would not be his ability to win other states going forward, but to win through a process many would see as illegitimate. Those consequences can be seen in Texas where, had Rubio not competed, Cruz would have garnered significantly more delegates making it even harder for Trump to win.

If Rubio competes in Florida, Cruz is going to compete too — doing so because the Cruz strategy has always been to win the primaries, not just get to the floor of the convention. And Cruz will claim every right to do so as Rubio did in Texas, but both then risk Trump winning Florida.

To truly beat Trump and keep his supporters from completely fleeing, Trump must be beaten in the primaries, not on the floor of the convention. And it is still mathematically possible, but it requires Cruz to win Florida, not Rubio. All of this talk by Rubio voters about later states, closed primaries, and favorability ignores voter psychology and, frankly, ignores the fact that Marco Rubio’s Gang of Eight position has poisoned the well too much for too many Republican voters. It will, in fact, go down as one of the worse political miscalculations in the last quarter century. All of this talk by Rubio voters ignores that Rubio and Cruz together can win Florida and Ohio, but divided cannot and only increase the odds of either a Trump nomination or the delegitimization of the process by which the GOP will pick its nominee.

Additionally, while Rubio’s strategy against Trump has worked terrifically, it also has reminded people that Rubio looks young and not necessarily experienced. The irony is that there really is only a minor age difference between Rubio and Cruz, but Rubio comes across as the brash kid because of his remarkably effective attacks on Trump.

Seeing Rubio and Cruz twice now tag team Donald Trump and throw Trump off his game, shows the Republican Party that a unity ticket would work and wold be effective. A unity ticket is the right thing to do.

But Rubio is going to have to be Vice President now, not President. His Florida win would engineer only a brokered convention, not a clean win. We need a clean win against Trump. Uniting with Cruz now makes a clean win possible.

For that work, Rubio and Cruz would need to now publicly declare their alliance, the positions of the two, and then criss cross the nation together. They would garner media attention, put Trump on defense, and unite insiders and outsiders. They would create the air of inevitability putting Ohio within their reach and other sizable states.

It is just abundantly obvious at this point that the outsider needs to be on the top of the ticket to really unite the party. It is abundantly obvious that Rubio winning Florida really only gets us a brokered convention. It is abundantly obvious that Rubio and Cruz make a great, great team. And it is abundantly obvious that if they do not unite now, they will be crushed by Trump or force a brokered convention that delegitimizes the whole party and risks even worse — a people turned violent reacting to a rigged game.

The time to unite is now. The burden is now on Marco Rubio. Seeing the Romney press conference and the debate confirm for me that a brokered convention would destroy the GOP and the only path forward is Cruz and Rubio together as President and Vice President.

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Erick Erickson

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