Five Armies marched on the Palmetto State yesterday and the bloody battles have already begun.
At the center of the fray is Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire playboy Donald Trump squaring off over the anti-establishment flag. On the periphery, edging ever closer to the heart of the battle are the Governors’ Armies. Jeb Bush and John Kasich, after many months of peaceful coexistence have been forced to compete for the establishment flag. Also on the battlefield, an army of fierce robotic drones, positioned to defend their General, Senator Marco Rubio. The Rubio Army is now an army looking to fight anyone and everyone, desperate to capture one or both flags – only, the other armies aren’t nearly as concerned with Rubio’s Robot Revolution, as they were just days ago.
When Donald Trump goes into battle, he doesn’t “come out with the knives” or even “with guns blazing”. He throws grenades. He slings profanity, mocks his enemies, and pounds his foe with an onslaught of quasi-intelligible twitter rants. Donald Trump, using his vast reality television popularity has perfected the art of running, not on issues, but on entertainment. The American People have languished under 15 years of a broken federal government where the wealthy Washington Insider (like Donald Trump) prospers, while the working class American suffers, all while paying for the entitlements of those who’ve chosen the path of least resistance. Trump has given a voice to their anger, reaching out to the uncouth, the low rent, and the vulgar. He’s their Achilles. The Donald has proven to be a formidable opponent, placing in Iowa, winning “yuge” in New Hampshire, and sporting a massive lead in South Carolina.
Senator Ted Cruz, like the Spartans, is waging a methodical and relentless campaign predicated upon a consistent record of conservative and constitutionalist values. His positive, issue-oriented approach to the battle has not been derailed by Trump’s Kardashian tactics (appealing to the most vulgar and depraved feelings of the public). Cruz has demonstrated a remarkable ability to raise money, to organize an incredibly complex and massive ground game operation, boasting lists of endorsements unequaled by his opponents, and never veering off message. Senator Cruz is rebuilding the Reagan Coalition, calling Reagan Blue Dog Democrats, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Evangelicals, and Conservatives to his banner. But to win, Ted Cruz must defeat Donald Trump. He’s the only one who can.
Governor John Kasich brought no army to the State of Iowa, choosing instead to win on the wintry streets of New Hampshire. Kasich, like Cruz, has run a consistently positive, issue-oriented campaign, on his record. Unlike other candidates no longer in the race, who ran away from their principles and their record, or even attempted to lie about their record, Governor Kasich has defended his record as the reason why folks should vote for him. Kasich boasts more experience than most of the other Republican Candidates combined, as both a legislator and an executive. Kasich is a proven manager and an all around good guy. However, his positions on war and peace, health care, immigration, and taxes have placed him firmly on a battlefield with Bush, unlikely to conscript any of the anti-establishment volunteers.
Governor Jeb Bush, son of one President and brother to another, has tried to run a good campaign, but has never escaped the shadow of his family name. Finishing just a few hundred votes behind Ted Cruz in New Hampshire and marching on a State that has always been friendly to the Bush Family, the Governor has been forced to turn his weapons on fellow Governor John Kasich; for in a month, there will likely only be one “establishment” (experienced) candidate remaining. Bush and Kasich cannot both survive. There can be only one.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio, who finished third in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire has, despite maybe fighting the best fight of any of the candidates, failed to build an army of real people capable of helping him reach the promised land. As one candidate after another falls by the wayside, Rubio, who has failed to define his campaign, who has fought to win the general election in the beginning of a primary, now has no opponent across from him. While Trump battles Cruz and Kasich battles Bush, Rubio must somehow figure out a way to fight them all. It is not likely that any of the other candidates will even mention Rubio going forward. The narratives are already set. Not even Fox News (which has a massive viewership of people who simply do not believe anything they are viewing) can save the Junior Senator from Florida’s campaign.
What we’ve got in South Carolina looks an awful lot like an NFC/AFC Championship situation. Trump versus Cruz. Bush versus Kasich. The victors will square off in a battle for the White House. South Carolina matters. Analysts seem to favor Bush over Kasich, Trump over Cruz, but we’ve got a week and half to settle this debate on the field. For my money, don’t count Cruz or Kasich out.