You’ll remember that in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, establishment Republicans were bemoaning that having too many establishment candidates in the running was splitting the vote in such a way that was benefiting Trump, something that wouldn’t happen if the field winnowed. Well, that’s pretty much happened. We’re down to four candidates with Rubio as the clear establishment favorite. Kasich is still in the running, but he’s a non-factor; though undoubtedly some of his supporter would flock to Rubio were Kasich to quit, there’s not a whole lot of reason to believe it would change much.
Because here’s what happened in Iowa, in case you forgot:
Argh! Too many candidates! If they hadn’t all been there to split the vote, no doubt Our Boy Rubio would not only have surpassed Trump, but probably could have taken down Cruz as well! But not to worry, because Santorum and Huckabee would drop out before New Hampshire, and so would that menacing Rand Paul with his 4.5% of the vote.
Drat! Now it’s the dead weight of Christie and Fiorina with their combined 11.5% of the vote! Surely if those two quit Rubio’s numbers would go up! If they hadn’t tried to compete in NH, Rubio probably would have gotten at least as many votes as Kasich, maybe more!
Goddamnit! That useless Jeb Bush sucking up all the air! Certainly if he packed it in all the supposedly sensible people that voted for him would flock to Rubio!
Son of a bitch! What is it going to take for Republicans to finally see that Rubio 2.0 is the Republican Savior, the spicy Floridian who will revive the neoconservative vision of maniacal madmen like Irving Kristol?
See, this idea that if only so-and-so would drop out is a load of BS when it comes to people voting for Rubio. Just look at the numbers from Super Tuesday:
Even if you added every single one of Kasich’s votes to Rubio’s, he still would have come in third overall. And you can go through it state-by-state and see just how little Kasich’s votes would have helped Rubio. Sure, he would have crossed the 20% threshold in a few places, but the only places where adding Kasich’s votes to Rubio’s would actually improve his position against Trump were Oklahoma and Virginia, and he still would have lost Oklahoma to Cruz. You could say he would have done better in Vermont, but more realistically you’d have to add Rubio’s votes to Kasich’s, not the other way around.
Would picking up Kasich’s votes have helped Rubio? Of course. It would have increased his delegate count and made him more competitive. He would have won a couple more states. But he’d still be neck and neck with Cruz, and Trump would still be beating both of them.
People are attracted to the candidates for different reasons. It’s not like an incredibly narrow field made it any easier for Democrats to get in the race. With only three competitors in the Democratic Iowa caucus, you’d think Martin O’Malley would have gotten at least a few more percentage points by accident. But he just wasn’t a standout candidate—not invisible, but certainly not different enough from Clinton to siphon any votes. Voters didn’t want him. Same with Rubio. Kasich can stay in the race because he’s a different kind of Republican than Rubio, and clearly enough people like Kasich that they’d much rather he be the nominee than the infinitely more hawkish and brutal Rubio. Trump doesn’t appear to have any ceiling, but Rubio? He’ll always have a ceiling, and a low one, so long as he has to run against anyone but himself.