Make no mistake, our state did not give a mandate to Donald Trump last night. Yes, he won a decisive victory, and I would not try to deny it, but two thirds of SC Republicans voted against Donald Trump, and nearly fifty percent voted for his top two challengers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. It’s clear that SC Republicans, and conservatives across the country, are looking for the conservative alternative to Donald Trump. What’s not so clear is who that alternative is in the minds of most voters.
In the coming weeks, as the race comes into even clearer focus after the “SEC Primary” on March 1st, conservatives need to find a consensus champion around whom we can all rally of we hope to stop Trump and win the White House over Hillary in November. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are both movement conservatives, with credentials that might even have made Reagan blush. Either would represent the conservative base of the Republican Party, and both are better than Trump and infinitely better than Hillary Clinton. The only question is which of these two challengers to Trump will be able to go the distance.
If conservatives don’t rally behind one of these two men after the SEC Primary, our chances of stopping Trump and nominating a conservative will dwindle quickly. We will, in effect, see a national version of what we saw here in South Carolina last night: conservatives split between two excellent candidates while the lifelong Democrat gets closer to capturing the Republican Presidential Nomination. We all have our personal favorites, but in the weeks to come it will need to be about which conservative, Rubio or Cruz, can defeat The Donald and go on to defeat the Democrats in November.
My hope is that which ever conservative, Rubio or Cruz, who comes out of the SEC Primary ahead becomes the candidate conservatives unite behind in contests thereafter. I personally would love to see them join forces with the leading candidate becoming the presidential nominee and the runner-up becoming his running mate. Such a move would solidify the conservative base, and deny Donald Trump the Republican ticket. A conservative ticket could ride to the nomination and dominate the general election.
I understand conservative outrage, because I share it. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the result of weak-kneed leadership by the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Nevertheless, if conservatives stay divided between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz throughout this primary season, Trump will win the nomination, and conservatives will lose this election. In the coming weeks we have a choice: unite behind a conservative who can win, or stay divided and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.