The Republican presidential nominating contest turns to South Carolina, where polls show Donald Trump holding onto to his frontrunner status over Senator Ted Cruz, who prognosticators say will most likely come in second place.
Neither candidate is very appealing to the party establishment’s money machine. Most were counting on Jeb Bush, whose lackluster campaign and poor showing in both the Iowa and New Hampshire contests has put his bid in peril.
Traditional Republican donors have been both stunned and panicked by the steady rise of Trump, whose insults to women, Latinos and pretty much every other voting bloc have only seemed to increase his popularity. Cruz has support from Tea Party conservatives, but has made enemies in Congress and elsewhere in the mainstream.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio is projected to finish third in South Carolina, and very likely with the backing of the Republican establishment.
Rubio and The GOP Establishment Make Their First Last Stand
Howard Fineman – The Huffington Post
Hating Cruz and fearing Trump, the insiders more than ever are behind Rubio. They include most of the usual suspects: corporate lobby and fundraising types; defense contractors and war hawks; members of Congress (many have endorsed him, while not a single senator has endorsed Cruz); and elected officials of all levels in various states.
Most of that doesn’t matter in primaries and caucuses, where voters have all the say….
If Rubio can’t finish strongly here — pulling off an upset win or a close second — he and his backers are going to have to make another last stand, until they run out of places to make them.
Rubio Emerges as the Anti-Trump, Anti-Cruz Favorite
Jamie Self – The State
Who will be the GOP’s anti-Trump, anti-Cruz candidate – promising to unite the party and, more importantly, beat the Democratic nominee in November?
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida became the most-likely-to-succeed Wednesday, winning the endorsement of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
But with Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas holding first and second in most S.C. polls, seizing the third-place ticket out of South Carolina could be the best hope for Rubio — and the other GOP candidates — to remain viable.
And third may not be enough.
Rubio Will Bring Back Stability to America
Victor Ashe – The Tennessean
The next president of the United States must set a new course: one focused on rebuilding American strength and pushing back against Russia.
Senator Rubio believes, just as President Ronald Reagan did, that expanding missile defense is a moral necessity and a national security imperative. He will work to overturn the devastating effects of President Obama’s defense cuts and restore funding to key missile defense programs. And he will stand with our allies instead of abandoning them.
Marco Rubio has the knowledge, judgment and demeanor to do what is long overdue: bring back stability and protect the American people.
The Party Is Deciding On Rubio
Harry Enten – FiveThirtyEight
The biggest problem for the anti-Trump crowd is that its support has been divided.
Rubio, Bush and John Kasich are splitting the anti-Trump vote (it’s harder to say how Ted Cruz fits in here). Trump’s support has been fairly stable in national polls, at about 35 percent, over the past month, and it’s starting to look like he has a core group of supporters who will stick with him come hell or high water.
On the other hand, 35 percent is not all that close to 50 percent. If Rubio can coalesce the anti-Trump vote and get to a one-on-one with Trump, Rubio may be able to come out on top.
These endorsements could be a signal to anti-Trump voters to rally around Rubio. They may also be a signal to Bush and Kasich to clear the way, that Rubio is Republican elites’ best chance to stop Trump. Of course, in a campaign as wacky as 2016 has been, it may not work.