Like the Titanic before it, the U.S.S.¡Jeb! set sail with such great puffery and fanfare that the passengers on board the gilded ship sipping from champagne flutes were filled with confidence and optimism about the wondrous journey to follow. Quite bullish they were!
So it is rather a shock — though also sort of amusing in a devilish way — to see all these Republicans in their top hats, spats, and ball gowns now all wet and cold, clinging helplessly to the tiny rubber life raft, the H.M.S. Little Marco, as it bobs and swells in the roiling waters left by the sunken liner named for Florida’s once popular Gov. Jeb! Bush.
Watching the GOP establishment clamor to get aboard Sen. Marco Rubio’s little dingy of a campaign underscores just how desperate Republican leaders have become after years of ignoring their base voters and then disastrously misunderstanding the degree to which real estate developer Donald Trump would fill that vacuum.
When Mr. Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he ran as the furthest thing he could be from an establishment candidate. He challenged the sitting governor from his own party for the nomination and won. Riding the wave of anti-establishment tea party support, Mr. Rubio drove Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party.
Mr. Rubio arrived in Washington as a conservative, tea party heartthrob. Today, Mr. Rubio has morphed into the Republican establishment’s best — if faintly glimmering — hope to thwart Mr. Trump from winning the Republican nomination. Or, perhaps even worse, Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas firebrand.
Everyone in the press these days — almost universally suffering from Donald Trump Derangement Syndrome — loves to add up all the votes in each contest earned by someone other than Mr. Trump. This number, they deceitfully declare, is the vote cast AGAINST Donald Trump. But, as we have seen as candidates keep falling, Mr. Trump collects at least some of those freed-up votes.
A far more honest and revealing exercise is to add up all the votes cast for hotly anti-establishment candidates this cycle and ponder just how screwed the Republican Party is right now.
To date, Donald Trump has won 35 percent of the popular vote. Ted Cruz comes in second with 29 percent. That alone is a pretty stout rejection of the GOP establishment.
Add in the vote totals from other outsiders, such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, and outsiders rack up a whopping 69 percent of the popular vote so far in the Republican primary.
Indeed, those numbers should be enough for party poobahs to perhaps put down their fiddles, stop rearranging the chairs on the deck of their sinking ship and do something to save the party.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @charleshurt.