Silver joins the Campos Express, even if he’s with Lemieux on the half-hearted skeptics car:
I’m in the midst of working on a long review of the book “The Party Decides,” so we’ll save some of the detail for that forthcoming article. But the textbook on Trump is that he’d be a failure along virtually every dimension that party elites normally consider when choosing a nominee: electability (Trump is extremely unpopular with general election voters); ideological reliability (like Sarah Palin, Trump’s a “maverick”); having traditional qualifications for the job; and so forth. Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.
You can find lots of other examples like these. It’s the type of coordinated, multifront action that seems right out of the “The Party Decides.” If, like me, you expected something like this to happen to Trump instead of Cruz, you have to revisit your assumptions. Thus, I’m now much less skeptical of Trump’s chances of becoming the nominee.
The lesson, as Silver says, is not that the party has “decided” for Trump. Many of the stop-Cruz crowd are presumably hoping to end his hopes in Iowa and then get behind whatever non-Cruz politician seems in the strongest position after New Hampshire.
But it’s also hard to see how this will work, simply because party elites still haven’t decided about anything. Some factions of the party who would prefer Generic Republican Hack to Trump or Cruz will make it their top priority to stop the latter (this is particularly likely with anyone who’s had to work with him directly), while other factions of the party will make it their priority to stop Trump, like Frankenstein trying to strangle his monster.
And let’s say some scenario effectively eliminates Cruz (loses Iowa, finishes behind Jeb! and Christie in New Hampshire) or Trump (loses Iowa to Cruz convincingly, loses or barely scrapes by in New Hampshire and then loses to Cruz in South Carolina.) Why are we confident that Republican elites will rally around any one alternative? Although he shows no signs of getting off the canvas Jeb! still ranks higher in the 538 endorsement ranking than Rubio (and Rubio’s failure to generate more party enthusiasm than Jeb! although the latter’s campaign has been a 6-month faceplant is, in itself, damning of his abilities as a candidate.) Unless New Hampshire results are a lot different than the polls, its primary figures to neither knock any of the Generic Republican Alternatives out of the race of give them a triumph. It’s hard to see elites who have been reluctant to rally around Rubio doing so unless he starts doing a lot better in New Hampshire. And of course if the Cruz wins Iowa and does OK in New Hampshire and Trump wins New Hampshire easily — which I still think is the most likely scenario — then both will remain in the race for a while and consolidation behind a Generic Alternative both probably becomes less likely and has a good chance of being futile even if it happens.
I frankly have no idea who wins this, but I am pretty confident that it won’t shake out along “The Party Decides” lines.