The Wisconsin primary could be an axle-breaking speed bump on Donald Trump's road to the nomination. Ted Cruz, now the last hope to derail Trump of a desperate Beltway elite that lately loathed him, has taken the lead in the Badger State.
Millions in attack ads are being dumped on the Donald's head by super PACs of GOP candidates, past and present. Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed Cruz. Conservative talk radio is piling on Trump.
And the Donald just had the worst two weeks of his campaign. There was that unseemly exchange with Cruz about their wives. Then came the pulling of the woman reporter's arm by campaign chief Corey Lewandowski, an atrocity being liken by the media to the burning of Joan of Arc.
Then there was Trump's suggestion, instantly withdrawn, that if abortion is outlawed, then women who undergo abortions may face some punishment. This gaffe told us nothing we did not know. New to elective politics, Trump is less familiar with the ideological and issues terrain than those who live there. But the outrage of the elites is all fakery.
Democrats do not care a hoot about the right to life of unborn babies, even unto the ninth month of pregnancy. And the Republican establishment is grabbing any stick to beat Trump, not because he threatens the rights of women, but because he threatens them.
The establishment's problem is that Trump refuses to take the saddle. Again and again, he has defied the dictates of political correctness that they designed to stifle debate and demonize dissent. Trump has gotten away with his insubordination and shown, with his crowds, votes, and victories, that millions of alienated Americans detest the Washington establishment and relish his defiance.
Trump has denounced the trade treaties, from NAFTA to GATT to the WTO and MFN for China, that have de-industrialized America, imperil our sovereignty and independence, and cost millions of good jobs.
And who is responsible for the trade deals that sold out Middle America? "Free-trade" Republicans who signed on to "fast-track," surrendered Congress' rights to amend trade treaties, and buckle to every demand of the Business Roundtable.
The unstated premise of the Trump campaign is that some among the Fortune 500 companies are engaged in economic treason against America. No wonder they hate him.
As for Trump's call for an "America First" foreign policy, it threatens the rice bowls of those for whom imperial interventions are the reason for their existence. If the primary goals of U.S. foreign policy become the avoidance of confrontations with great nuclear powers and staying out of unnecessary wars, who needs neocons?
Should Trump lose Wisconsin, he can recoup in New York on April 19, and the following week in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland. Yet, a loss in Wisconsin would make Trump's climb to a first-ballot nomination steeper.
Still, if Trump goes to Cleveland, having won the most votes, the most states and the most delegates, stealing the nomination from him would split the party worse than in 1964. The GOP could be looking at a 1912, when ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, who won the most contested primaries, was rejected in favor of President Taft. Teddy walked out, ran on the "Bull Moose" ticket, beat Taft in the popular vote, and Woodrow Wilson was elected.
Cruz says the nomination of Trump would mean an "absolute trainwreck" in November. But, Cruz, 45, with a future in the party, would be foolish to walk out as a sore loser, as Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney did in 1964.
A Cruz rejection of a nominee Trump would mean the end of Cruz. The elites would hypocritically applaud Ted's heroism, publicly bewail his passing, then happily bury and be rid of him. Cruz, no fool, has to know this.
If the nomination is taken from Trump, who will be 70 in June, he has nothing to lose. And as "Julius Caesar" reminds us, "such men are dangerous."
Trump and Cruz, though bitter enemies, are both despised by the establishment. Yet both have a mutual interest: insuring that one of them, and only one of them, wins the nomination. No one else. And if they set aside grievances, and act together, they can block any establishment favorite from being imposed on the party, as was one-worlder Wendell Willkie, "the barefoot boy of Wall Street," in 1940.
All Trump and Cruz need do is instruct their delegates to vote to retain Rule 40 from the 2012 convention. Rule 40 declares that no candidate can be placed in nomination who has failed to win a majority of the delegates in eight states. Trump has already hit that mark. Cruz almost surely will. But no establishment favorite has a chance of reaching it.
With Cruz and Trump delegates voting to retain Rule 40, they can guarantee no Beltway favorite walks out of Cleveland as the nominee — and that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump does.
No matter who wins in Cleveland, the establishment must lose.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
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