The Republicans' sin of endorsement

How can things get worse for Republicans? Jeb Bush turned out to be a terrible candidate. Marco Rubio turned out to be an annoying twit. Donald Trump is a nightmare. Something had to be done, and so the solid, steady moderate elite decided the best strategy was to rally around... Ted Cruz.

Welcome to worse.

They were terrified of Mr Trump, whose shortlist of foreign policy advisers includes a 2009 college graduate with a resume that boasts he once took part in a Model United Nations. Far better plan to nominate Mr Cruz, whose list includes a guy who wrote an opinion piece suggesting President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a woman who thinks Joseph McCarthy's judgment about communists in the federal government was "spot on".

They thought Mr Trump would be such an unpopular nominee that the party would face a historic disaster in November. Obviously, the way to improve chances was to support the most actively disliked Republican politician in America.

Our question for today is, Why aren't these people rallying around Mr John Kasich? The Ohio governor is the other Trump alternative, far and away the sanest member of the trio. True, he's kind of boring, but that doesn't seem all that terrible a quality when you're comparing him with Mr Cruz, who is, at his best, excruciatingly irritating.


Mr Kasich, the Republican presidential candidate, at a campaign rally at the Crowne Plaza Milwaukee West hotel on Wednesday in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Voters in Wisconsin go to the polls on April 5 to select their party's presidential nominee.  PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Senator Lindsey Graham started the trend of people who loathe Ted Cruz endorsing him to be president of the United States. He admitted that Mr Kasich would be a better candidate in November, but claimed that the governor would never get the nomination because he's "seen as an insider". Mr Mitt Romney, who announced he'd be voting for Mr Cruz in Utah, made it clear that he likes Mr Kasich. But he said Mr Cruz had a better chance of denying Mr Trump the nomination.

Yes, Mr Romney wanted to make sure he could strike a blow against Mr Trump's "bigotry" and "xenophobia". So he threw his weight behind Mr Cruz, who called for police patrols in American Muslim neighbourhoods "before they become radicalised".

"I don't try to figure them out," Mr Kasich said in a phone interview. "Everybody decides these things on the basis of - I don't know what."

The official Republican world now contains people who took a dive and endorsed Mr Trump, the ones who've endorsed Mr Cruz and pretended it was a profile in courage, and the ones still sitting on the fence. They all look miserable.

Wouldn't you think a few would just say, "Look, I know Kasich is behind in delegates, but he behaves in the way I want our party to be".

It would be nice moment, wouldn't it? But so far, the list of people who've gone there is pretty much confined to one ex-governor.

This week, Mr Trump and Mr Cruz had a fight about... their wives. An anti-Trump super PAC circulated an old picture of Melania Trump from GQ, posing more or less nude, with the message: "Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday."

Now, candidates don't control political action committees, but the Cruz campaign does have a history of dirty tricks, so you could imagine even a less lunatic person than Mr Trump getting angry. Then Mr Trump, in his inimitable way, threatened to "spill the beans" on Mrs Heidi Cruz.

Leave the families alone! What this country needs is a bean-free election. Or at least candidates who can talk about terrorism without being terrifying. After the Brussels bombing, Mr Cruz called for those police patrols and bragged that he could say something so daring only because he was not afraid of being politically incorrect. Mr Trump hyperventilated about waterboarding.

Meanwhile, Mr Kasich issued a statement about international cooperation in the war against terror. You'd think that would have moved somebody. But no.

"Friend - I wanted you to be the first to know that today, I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President," Mr Jeb Bush wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday morning. Some political observers believe that he's trying to protect the political future of his son, Mr George P. Bush, who is the Texas land commissioner.

If that's the case, noncommitted Republicans, you really should consider voting for Mr Kasich just to make it clear that you are not interested in having any more members of the Bush family in line for the presidency.

"I did get a text from Jeb at 5.30 in the morning, but no phone calls," Mr Kasich reported.

None of these new converts to the Cruz camp seem to have any actual arguments about Mr Cruz being a good potential president. Mr Bush, in his announcement, complained that "Washington is broken" but did nothing whatsoever to explain how things would be improved by the nomination of a senator whose sole achievement in office was an effort to shut down the government. Maybe they think if Mr Cruz is the spoiler at the convention, it'll be easier to shove him away to make room for a brand new superhero? (Looking at you, Mitt.)

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'The Republicans' sin of endorsement'. Print Edition | Subscribe