- - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Republication elites who imagined that the race for the nomination would be over with the collapse of Donald Trump on Super Tuesday were disappointed again. Donald Trump took seven states, but the elites’ assault on his character and reputation continues.

Mr. Trump is edging closer to winning a majority of Republican voters, and the assault on him might have worked against a divided field if the assault had been done earlier. Some of the elites say they see a glimmer of hope in the numbers in the fine print of the results, so great is their terror of marching against Hillary Clinton under the Donald’s banner.

Rallying around Marco Rubio hasn’t worked, although he did finally win a state’s primary, this one in Minnesota. Now there’s a buzz about rallying around Ted Cruz, who argues that the Donald isn’t a “consistent” conservative. Mr. Rubio is soldiering on to next week’s Florida primary, which he must win if he preserves any credibility as a candidate. He accuses Mr. Trump of “bad manners.” Both Messrs. Cruz and Rubio have a point, but this is a year when neither corruption (Hillary) nor vulgarity (the Donald) seem to bother anyone very much.

Ted Cruz won his home state, an enormous prize, and neighboring Oklahoma as well, and came close in nearby Arkansas. Bernie Sanders won Vermont on the strength of familiarity. If you can’t count on your neighbors you can’t count on anyone. If either man had lost his neighbors, he would have been humiliated.

Mr. Trump can similarly humiliate Marco Rubio next week in Florida, where the public-opinion polls show him with a significant but not quite comfortable lead. Mr. Rubio set the bar high when he finally won a state, though some in his campaign had predicted that he would win others. He says flatly he’ll win Florida, and he must to transform wishful thinking into hard reality.

The elites and concerned conservatives continue to argue about whether and how to stop the speeding Trump train. Some suggest that if they can push the also-rans, who include everyone else, and pit one candidate against the Donald they can take him out. The obvious alternative is Ted Cruz, though the proper elites still want Marco Rubio. Ben Carson and John Kasich are irrelevant as candidates, and can only create the divided vote Mr. Trump has exploited in primary after primary. If they could clear the field Ted Cruz might have a chance.

Still others suggest that everyone stay in, though Ben Carson all but called it quits Wednesday, to deny Mr. Trump a majority of delegates going into the convention in Cleveland where they might stop him. The people who don’t like Mr. Trump will control the levers of power and could use them to create the elusive brokered convention.

This would naturally demonstrate what Mr. Trump has been saying all along, that the party establishment disdains the unwashed rank and file, useful only for their votes on Election Day. This might blow up the party, sure enough.

There’s a good and reasonable argument for defeating Donald Trump, but it must be a fair fight — not because that’s “the right thing to do.” Campaign politics is not based on right and wrong, but on what works, and anything less that a fair fight here would guarantee four more years of the Clinton machine in charge, putting the U.S. Supreme Court in the lands of the left for a generation, and bringing down incalculable misery on one and all.

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