Super Saturday: A nightmare for the Republicans?

Going by recent results, battle for the party’s presidential nomination could be between the two the party least wanted.

After Super Tuesday, there was Super Saturday.

Only it wasn’t quite so super for Donald Trump. And for Marco Rubio, it was worse than a day stuck in the house in the middle of winter with pouring rain, screaming kids and nothing on the TV.

For Texas Senator Ted Cruz, it was his best day since his win in Iowa.

It is also a significant point in this election campaign.

Republican voters turned out for caucuses in Kansas, Maine and Kentucky while New Orleans held its primary.

Cruz won in the first two and came within five points of Trump in other two.

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While the billionaire businessman claimed that this was a huge night for him, in the all-important delegate count, Cruz did much better.

He picked up 62 while Trump managed 49.

While it blunts Trump’s momentum, it doesn’t signal a collapse in support. But it does change the dynamics and the narrative for a while.

Rubio, though, had a very bad night. He has tried, with the backing of the Republican establishment, to insist he is the only real challenge to Trump.

The Florida senator has spent the last two weeks going after Trump strongly.

He has confronted him on the debate stage. He has ridiculed him on the campaign trail. And he has undermined him in interviews.

But the voters have clearly decided they don’t like the tone of the attacks and it paints Republicans in a bad way. So they’ve punished Rubio.

His campaign says they knew that Saturday would be rough. But the senator who keeps telling people what he’ll do on his first day in office, has still won just one state.

He is pinning his hopes on Florida which is a winner-takes-all state for delegates. But he’s struggling there and a win is not guaranteed. Or, at this point, expected. He’s got to do much better soon.

If not, the Republican party is facing its worst-case scenario.

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For as much as it distrusts Trump, it dislikes Cruz just as much.

He has been anti-establishment since the moment he arrived in Washington.

He engineered a shutdown of the federal government, upset congressional leaders and is so disliked by his colleagues that he hasn’t secured one endorsement from his fellow senators.

As one Republican told me, “Cruz will always do what’s best for Cruz. He’s been running for president since he arrived here”.

The Texas senator is a strict conservative – both on fiscal and social issues. He believes his party has failed to reach the White House because previous candidates have not been right-wing enough.

Ted Cruz
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a rally on Saturday, March 5, 2016, at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. (Shawn Gust/Coeur D”Alene Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

His opponents says he has been running a campaign full of dirty tricks. There are also concerns his positions will alienate US’ political middle.

And if he were to win the party’s nomination, he couldn’t pivot to the centre as candidates usually do. There is a fear it could lead to a big Republican defeat.

With Rubio struggling and no obvious route to the nomination, it looks like the Republican battle is narrowing down to these two.

John Nichols, writing for The Nation, now suggests the Republicans face a choice “between a narcissistic billionaire who keeps saying awful things and a narcissistic senator who keeps doing awful things”.

The Republican field started with seventeen candidates. The party boasted of its “deep bench”, the outstanding experience on offer and the broad talents of those on show.

Now it could be a battle between the two they least wanted to be the standard-bearer in November.

Source: Al Jazeera