As the presidential primary moves into a more urgent and combative phase, there is growing acceptance among Republicans, including the Washington and financial elite, that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the two candidates most likely to become the party’s nominee.
Their commanding performances at the sixth debate — along with their continued dominance in national and early state polls — has solidified the conclusion of many Republicans that the campaign is becoming a two-person contest.
Long expected to become a race between an outsider and an establishment candidate, it is coming down instead as one between two outsiders, with dwindling time for their rivals to change the trajectory before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.
There is hope that one of the four establishment candidates may emerge as a consensus choice and consolidate support. The two who seem best positioned to do so, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, had some sparkling moments in Thursday’s Fox Business Channel debate, but left the stage bruised and squabbling. They returned to the campaign trail on Friday aiming more firepower at each other than Trump or Cruz.
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