Despite the protestations of pundits on cable television every hour that whatever event is about to happen is “make or break” or “must win,” like a broken clock even a cable television pundit will be right twice a day. Today is one of those two times in Campaign 2016. When the sun rises on Wednesday morning the GOP race will almost certainly be dramatically transformed. While predictions are hazardous in this particular election year the most likely outcome is that Donald Trump defeats Marco Rubio in the Florida primary, John Kasich defeats Mr. Trump in the Ohio primary, and the race to the finish line accelerates to a fevered panic throughout the GOP about how to prevent Mr. Trump from taking ownership of the Republican party by seizing its nomination for the presidency. Let’s have fun with a different style to shed some light on the events surrounding the battle for control of the Republican party. First, I confess to readers that since I have a limited tolerance for watching CNN describe breaking news about the latest beating at a Trump rally or Hillary Clinton offering sage wisdom about how she will put coal miners out of work, I have spent much time in recent weeks watching the superb Netflix presentation of House of Cards. I would also highly recommend the original British version of House of Cards which is even better if your taste runs to political backstabbing with a British accent. No need for a spoiler alert here. While I have concluded watching the new season of the American House of Cards, there will be nothing here that reveals anything about the latest maneuvers of President Frank Underwood, brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey, or his wife and first lady Claire Underwood, equally brilliantly played by Robin Wright.
‘Actually, Marco, we are stabbing Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump in the back. We are stabbing you and Mr. Kasich in the front.’
In earlier seasons of House of Cards, Mr. Underwood became president through assorted of acts of skulduggery, treachery and deceit, including once throwing a reporter he disapproved of under a subway car of the Washington Metro. (Let’s hope Mr. Trump has not seen this episode). Say what you want about the Underwoods, they are very good at the game of politics. So the thought occurs: what would Mr. Underwood be doing if the GOP primary results play out as I suggest above? I suspect that sometime around 11 o’clock on primary night the phone would ring at the Rubio hotel suite. “Marco, this is Frank Underwood. We need to have a chat,” he would say in a tone of voice similar to Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Mr. Rubio would reply: “What can I do for you, Mr. President?” “Marco, you are a fine young man with a brilliant future—potentially someday taking you to the presidency—but you must play your cards right at this moment in your career. I believe we both know what I mean, don’t we?” “Mr. President, if you were me, what would you do?” Mr. Rubio would reply. “Marco, I just got off the phone with John Kasich, congratulating him on his victory in the Ohio primary. At my suggestion he is going to be calling you soon to offer you the opportunity to run as vice president on his ticket. You will accept that invitation, won’t you?” “If I do accept this offer, President Underwood, how do you expect the campaign to play out?” Mr. Rubio would ask. “What would happen, Marco, is very simple” Mr. Underwood would explain. “The race would boil down to Mr. Trump, Ted Cruz who never accomplished anything in his brief Senate career except shutting down the federal government and being widely detested by almost every Republican in office who knows him, and you running under Mr. Kasich as a ticket. There will be no other option.” “The polls would then show that my Kasich-Rubio ticket would defeat Hillary Clinton by a large margin,” Mr. Underwood would continue. “Your campaign coffers would overflow with cash from your big Republican donors who have the backbone of a jellyfish but would realize they have no other option. Even Mitt Romney, who treats politics like it is a contest of dressage and yearns to have the nomination handed to him like Marie Antoinette delicately savoring a slice of delicious pie, would have no choice except to endorse your ticket. You would have a fighting chance because true fear concentrates the mind of even the weakest politician!” “I understand your plan, Mr. Underwood, but I must ask you. You are a Democratic president, why are you doing this to help Republicans win the White House?” Mr. Rubio would ask. “That is easy, my good man,” Mr. Underwood would explain. “As you have read, my wife Claire and I would like her to someday become president. If your party commits suicide and chooses Mr. Trump, everyone except the cable television pundits knows that Hillary Clinton would defeat him in a landslide. Even that Democratic socialist would defeat Mr. Trump in a landslide. Even Wolf Blitzer knows that. He just won’t tell you.” “Now Marco, do not get me wrong,” Mr. Underwood would continue. “Claire and I would take a sadistic pleasure in watching your conservative Republicans wake up every morning for the next eight years to Hillary Clinton as their next leader, after waking up every morning for the previous eight years enjoying Barack Obama as their leader. It would not be the worst consolation prize for Democratic warhorses such as Claire and I. But that would mean that Claire and I would have to wake up for the next eight years with someone other than Claire as our leader. Surely, Claire could never run in a Democratic primary against the first woman president, so we would have to wait, which would be an unbearable burden to bear.” “Oh, I get it,” Mr. Rubio would conclude. “You are stabbing everyone in the back so Claire could become president after defeating Mr. Kasich and I in four years.” “Actually, Marco, we are stabbing Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump in the back. We are stabbing you and Mr. Kasich in the front. And I am telling you today exactly how we are going to do it!” Mr. Underwood would say, laughing. “You are a devious son of a bitch, aren’t you? You would do anything to get what you want, wouldn’t you?” Mr. Rubio would reply. “Marco, Marco, Marco… Claire and I are no different than anyone else in politics. We are just better at it. The Republican nominee will be one of three people. Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz, or Mr. Kasich. If you join Mr. Kasich you might finish this chess game as a rook who survives the game. If you do not you will close the game as a pawn, knocked off the board. The choice is yours, Marco,” Mr. Underwood concluded, “you have no other choice.” “I have to get off now, Mr. President,” Mr. Rubio would reply. “My staff tells me Governor Kasich is calling. Thanks for your advice. I will think about it.” After he puts the phone down, Francis Underwood will sit alone with a wise smile on his face, saying to no-one in particular: “Marco will take the deal. The great secret of politics is that sooner or later the house of cards will always tumble down. The winner who prevails is the last person standing, who can pick up the pieces.”