In November, I predicted the first four stages of Republican grief over Donald Trump’s nomination would be funny (that’s denial, anger, bargaining and depression) but the last stage — acceptance — would not be.
Chris Christie proved me wrong — he showed that acceptance of Donald Trump can be hilarious when paired with mortifying regret.
But the funniest stage of Trump grief remains the first: denial. There has been a lot of denial, and it has been delicious.
The latest fad in Trump denial involves writing fantasies of all the non-Trump candidates teaming up, “Super Friends”-style, to take on and defeat Trump Man, the comic book villain who threatens to win the Republican nomination.
Specifically, they’re urging Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to form an electoral pact, with Cruz naming Rubio as his pick for vice president.
A Cruz-Rubio ticket barnstorming Florida for a week telling voters to go with Cruz could beat Trump and give hope.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) March 9, 2016
Solution: Cruz & Rubio savage Trump at Thurs debate. In closing Rubio endorses Cruz. Cruz announces Rubio as VP & urges FL votes for Rubio.
— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) March 9, 2016
Cruz attacks Trump non-stop during Thursday’s debate, then uses his closing statement to announce Rubio as his pick for VP.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 9, 2016
They are also open to other fantasy team combinations aside from a Cruz-Rubio ticket.
I have bad news for the fanfic authors: Marco Rubio is no better as a superhero than he is as a presidential candidate. Here’ are five reasons the Republican “Super Friends” will not be coming to rescue the party.
1. Ted Cruz can’t be a Super Friend because he has no friends. As team players go, Ted Cruz ranks somewhere between Bill Buckner and Judas. If he were on The Celebrity Apprentice, he’d be Omarosa. The idea that he will lead a successful deal-making effort to unify a party that is fraught with infighting (and full of people who hate him) is far-fetched.
Remember, Cruz is the guy Sen. Lindsay Graham joked that you could murder and go free if the jury consisted of his fellow senators.
2. Marco Rubio is not useful. One of the main problems to date with Republican efforts to stop Trump is that voters do not seem very interested in voting for Marco Rubio. (Indeed, that’s why Cruz’s strategy for Florida seems to be to beat Rubio rather than teaming up with him.) So what would he add to the ticket, and why would Cruz put him on it before it’s clear he has to?
Cruz-Rubio advocates have not yet updated an incorrect premise that led them to mis-analyse the race to date: that Rubio is a talented politician and an appealing candidate who will draw votes.
They also overestimate the likelihood that Cruz and Rubio could win the Florida primary by teaming up. The latest polling has Trump ahead of both of them combined, and both Cruz and Rubio have already gotten a lot of early votes. Plus, the fanfic authors seem confused about whether the alliance should urge votes in Florida for Cruz or for Rubio. Voters might get confused, too.
3. John Kasich won’t play along. What’s in it for him? Unlike Rubio, the Ohio governor is unlikely to ever run for anything again if he loses this election, and he wouldn’t fit in as a player in a Cruz administration. Like Chris Christie, he probably thinks his best shot at influence would be in a Trump administration. You may have noticed his conspicuous choice not to attack Trump in recent debates.
Plus, he’s stayed in the race despite losing 24 states, indicating that he isn’t terribly concerned about having a realistic path to the nomination. He could be content to walk into Cleveland with his delegates and see what he can get in exchange for them.
4. Voters aren’t ready to coalesce behind Cruz. The fanfic purveyors should be alarmed about how much of Rubio’s support shifted to Kasich in Tuesday’s voting and in national polling.
It makes sense that Rubio would fall apart quickly — a big reason people supported him was that they thought other people would support him. But why would voters seeking a viable establishment option switch to Kasich, who has even fewer delegates than Rubio?
Probably because they can’t yet bring themselves to support Cruz, who was (until a couple of months ago) considered normal Republicans’ worst-nightmare candidate. Voters tell pollsters they prefer Cruz to Trump in a head-to-head matchup, but it remains to be seen whether moderate Republicans in states like Connecticut and California will actually drag themselves to the polls to vote for a candidate they dislike over one they really dislike.
5. Candidates do not have the same incentives as voters. So much save-us-from-Trump analysis is motivated reasoning. I want Trump to be stopped, it goes, therefore candidates should do the things I want them to do to stop Trump.
But Marco Rubio and John Kasich’s goals are not to stop Trump. They want to be president, and if they can’t, they want to get whatever power they can out of this election.
Even Republican officials who deeply care about stopping Trump will be less motivated than usual to cooperate because of their likely reservations of living within a party led by Cruz. If candidates faced strong for anti-Trump cooperation, he would not have faced such a fractured field for so long.
Sorry, anti-Trump forces: There is no superhero coming to save you. Time for the depression stage of grief!
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