Establishment’s Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t Add Up

FedUp PAC Staff

This has been a rough year for the Republican establishment. First, their “chosen one” – Jeb Bush – didn’t even make it to the crucial round of Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. Despite tens of millions of dollars to spend and a lengthy list of endorsements, Jeb crashed and burned early. Now it seems that the establishment’s fallback position to stop frontrunner Donald Trump has about as much credibility as a three-dollar bill. Polling shows that voters are so fed up with the establishment that none of its candidates can match an outsider such as Trump.

Jeb Bush’s exit from the Republican field gives the establishment at least part of what they’ve wanted all along: fewer candidates to split up the anti-Trump vote. Establishment apologists see Trump’s support limited to about one-third of GOP voters. Fewer candidates, so the theory goes, means greater consolidation behind a Trump alternative that appeals to the two-thirds of the Republican electorate that would seem to be anti-Trump. Now that the establishment has closed ranks around Rubio, we know that he is the establishment’s preferred alternative.

Here’s where the establishment’s conventional wisdom starts to run into trouble. An Economist/YouGuv poll released last week that pits Trump, Cruz and Rubio against each other found Trump winning with 46% of the vote, ahead of Marco Rubio with 28% and Ted Cruz with 26%. Before that, in January, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of the same matchup found Trump with 40%, Cruz with 31% and Rubio with 26%. Even in a one-on-one matchup, according to NBC/Wall Street Journal, Trump still beats Rubio by a margin of 52% to 45%.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll threw cold water on another piece of establishment conventional wisdom. Trump’s supposed “limit” of one-third support from GOP voters does not hold up under scrutiny. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 65% of likely Republican voters could see themselves supporting Trump. The establishment’s house organ, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, piled on with the observation that “the longer Donald Trump stays in the race, the more likely GOP voters are willing to vote for him.”

On the question of who can best unify Republican voters, new establishment darling Marco Rubio thinks he’s the best man for the job. Once again, however, GOP voters don’t necessarily agree. Exit polls following the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries show strong support for Donald Trump across a wide range of age groups, gender, income levels and ideologies. Indeed, with the exception of college-educated Republicans, the establishment itself is the only group that shows strong resistance to Trump as the GOP Presidential nominee.

Perhaps former House Speaker Newt Gingrich put it best when he told Fox News last week, “I think they (referring to the Republican establishment) live in a fantasy land right now.” Gingrich points out that altogether the “insurgent” candidates Trump, Cruz and Carson have consistently shown at least 60% support among Republicans practically since the presidential campaign started. Simple math dictates that the only way for Marco Rubio to get closer to Trump is to take away some of his support among Republicans. Until that becomes the establishment’s conventional wisdom, everything else is just wishful thinking.