Donald Trump won his second primary in a row, taking first place in South Carolina with 32% of the vote. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz finished in a virtual tie for second with just over 22% of the vote apiece. After that, the drop off is precipitous, with Jeb! Bush coming in 4th at 7.8%, John Kasich at 7.6%, and Ben Carson at 7.2%.
Bush sent a message to the candidates below him in the lower tier when he immediately suspended his campaign during his concession speech. When the guy who finishes ahead of you drops out of the race because he knows he can’t win, what does that say about your chances?
Trump’s numbers dropped from 35% in New Hampshire to 32% in South Carolina, giving more evidence that he has a ceiling of support that he is currently bumping up against. As the field continues to narrow, that number will not be enough for him to continue to win. As other candidates have dropped out of the race, their voters have gone to everyone else BUT Trump.
Ted Cruz spent significant resources here, but was also pounded mercilessly by both Trump and Rubio. While a stronger showing would have been preferable for his campaign , a tie for second shows that he continues to be the viable alternative to Trump. Cruz is still positioned the best for the SEC Primary, but he is going to have to really have a good showing on March 1st. By not being able to distance himself from Rubio, people will start to question whether his ground game is as good as his campaign believes it is.
Marco Rubio has reason to be happy, but there are also big concerns he needs to face. The good news is that he finished with his highest showing of the campaign, tying Cruz for 2nd place. The bad news is he had the endorsements of the popular Governor, Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, and Congressman Trey Gowdy, he had the entire GOP state apparatus working on his behalf, he outspent Cruz while spending millions to attack his character, and the best he could do is finish tied with Cruz. If Rubio cannot have a breakthrough performance while everything is going his way, how is he going to do it anywhere else? Remember, no candidate has ever won the nomination without winning either Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.
Finally, the results in SC demonstrate what many people have suspected for awhile now. This is a three man race for the nomination, with the three remaining viable candidates presenting a fairly clear choice between them.
The establishment is firmly behind Marco Rubio who they feel gives them the best chance to maintain the status quo in Washington. If you like the way things are running in Washington DC right now, Marco Rubio is your candidate.
Donald Trump represents the polar opposite choice from Rubio. Trump represents the “burn it all down” philosophy. His supporters don’t care that he is not a conservative. They don’t care that he is not even a Republican. They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore. If you hate both parties, and you want to throw ALL the bums out, you are voting for Trump.
Between these two stands Ted Cruz. Cruz represents an end to corporate cronyism in Washington and a return of power back to the states. He represents returning the party to a consistent conservative form of governance where GOP policy actually resembles its party platform. If you are sick of the status quo, and want a candidate who you are confident will nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court to defend our Constitutional rights, Ted Cruz is your guy.
This is the most important presidential election most of us will likely face in our lifetime. Let’s hope we don’t blow it.
UPDATED: If this doesn’t send the signal that Marco Rubio is the Washington Establishment candidate, nothing will. The Huffington Post is reporting that Mitt Romney will be endorsing Rubio for president. That’s right. The guy that gave us RomneyCare and four more years of the disastrous Obama presidency is grabbing Marco Rubio in a big, squishy establishment bear hug. Conservatives looking at Rubio as their guy might want to start thinking twice.
UPDATE #2: Marco has woke the sleeping Trump giant. Trump had been training all his fire on Cruz, but now he has decided to give Marco a piece of the “Trump Treatment” and see how he likes it. On the Sunday shows, Trump questioned Rubio’s eligibility to be President. Enjoy the attention Marco.