Though Jeb (!) Bush was rightly seen as the biggest loser in the GOP's South Carolina primary, given that he dropped out of the race, I also think that although it got little attention, John Kasich was a big loser, as well.
Now, clearly, John Kasich was a deeply long-shot in the GOP race, and wasn't expected to get much more than about 4% of the vote on Saturday. But I also think he oddly did have one path to the nomination. And it's that he could have been seen as a sane, establishment choice, now that so many other establishment candidates have dropped out. It was obvious that Jeb (!) Bush was fading and would drop out soon, since he likely wouldn't be able to raise more money, having already raised SO much. And Marco Rubio had a meltdown, disastrous primary in New Hampshire. That left Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson (though he was never getting the nomination and is plummeting fast) -- and Kasich.
The first three are as near to causing panic among the Republican establishment And Kasich can probably stay in the race for a while since he doesn't appear to be spending much. So, with Bush out and Rubio losing his gloss, that would really only leave Kasich as someone establishment voters could rally around. It wasn't likely, but it was an understandable path.
But with Marco Rubio finishing second in South Carolina -- only be a hairs-breadth, and with zero delegates -- he resurfaced as a candidate who the GOP establishment could support without its head exploding. For all his flaws (and they are a great many) and his history of having other meltdowns and being far more deeply conservative than is ideal for an establishment character...he has one saving grace as a candidate: compared to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, he is not evil and insane.
Now, of course, there's no certainty in the slightest that Marco Rubio will get the GOP nomination. But the mere reality that most others have dropped out now, and he's someone who the party leaders and semi-rational voters can support, that takes away pretty much the last hope that John Kasich had.
And John Kasich knows it, too, because on Saturday, Kasich -- who has positioned himself as a "moderate" (which he isn't at all, he's conservative, but he appears "moderate" compared to the deeply far right positions of Trump, Cruz and Rubio) -- just signed a bill in Ohio to defund Planned Parenthood. That appears to me his last-ditch effort to show the base of the party that, when push comes to shove, he can be as base as the rest of them. Despite how many hugs he gives to people.
And while we're at it, I think Bernie Sanders was one of the big losers on Saturday, too. He did quite well in Nevada, but it was seen as a state that he could win, yet Hillary Clinton not only won the caucus, but by a bigger margin than expected, 53-47%. And she's likely going to win South Carolina this week by a significant margin. So, that takes away any sort of momentum that Sen. Sanders needed going into Super Tuesday. And Super Tuesday, with so many of its primaries in the South, is being seen as most probably a big day for Ms. Clinton, especially with her leading the polls in so many states at the moment. And she'll now be the one going into it with momentum.
And on we roll...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor