Let’s Examine to Death the D.C. Republican Primary

Saturday’s vote conveniently outed the District’s right-leaning voters

A Trump sign is seen near the Old Post Office Building in Washington, DC, on March 10, 2016 which will become Trump International Hotel Washington. Donald Trump's race for the White House has sown panic among Republican leaders scrambling to prevent a man billed as a demagogue from clinching the party nomination. / AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
A Trump sign by the old Post Office building in Washington, DC, on March 10, soon to be a Trump International Hotel. Donald Trump’s race for the White House has sown panic among Republican leaders scrambling to prevent a man billed as a demagogue from clinching the party nomination.

Lines snaked around the block on Saturday as the District of Columbia’s few Republican voters (which actually turned out to be more than one would think) came out to vote for who they’d like to see as their party’s nominee for president.

And when the polls closed, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won the district with 37 percent of the vote, walking away with 10 delegates. Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second with 36 percent of the vote and 9 delegates. Business mogul Donald Trump came in third with 14 percent of the vote and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came in last with 12 percent of the vote. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Cruz were awarded any delegates.

As soon as the results were in, campaigns and the media began furiously spinning the outcome. Mr. Cruz’s supporters said he won by coming in dead last, which meant he was despised by D.C. and therefore the true outsider in the race. Mr. Rubio’s supporters, facing the downfall of their candidate, were happy he won some delegates.

But are we looking too deeply into a single primary? Yes, I think we are.

I got my start in South Jersey politics. What I understood a Republican to be up there changed when I moved to D.C. and began working for the Heritage Foundation’s lobbying arm, Heritage Action. And my understanding changed again when I moved over to Heritage proper. Now, after nearly three years working in the media, I just hate everyone.

But it taught me that Republicans in New Jersey are different than the Republicans I knew in Florida where I went to school. And they were different from Republicans in Tennessee or Republicans in California. What the people of any given area of the country want doesn’t necessarily reflect on the candidate, otherwise we should be asking why Republicans in the northeastern states (where many of the moderate, “Establishment” members of the GOP come from) vote for Mr. Trump.

But we’re not asking that, because it doesn’t really matter. But how Republicans in D.C. voted, that seems to matter.

The line of thinking goes that Mr. Rubio must be the “Establishment” candidate because D.C. Republicans voted for him above anyone else. This also suggests that Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are the outsiders because they came in third and fourth, respectively.

D.C. is made up of many types of Republicans: lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers and others. As to the staffers, they represent non-establishment members of the GOP as well. It wasn’t the actual members of the “Establishment”—which has actually recently come to mean anyone in GOP a particular voter doesn’t like—it was their staffers and many others.

It doesn’t prove that Mr. Rubio is the “Establishment” any more than Mr. Trump’s win in Massachusetts proved he was a Democrat (an argument I didn’t see anyone make). It also doesn’t prove that Mr. Cruz is an “outsider,” considering he has been in the senate for three years now.

Is it interesting that Mr. Rubio and Mr. Kasich won D.C. by such large margins while Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz—who have been winning nearly every other primary and caucus—lost? Yes, that is interesting, but I think too much is being read into this one primary.

Just as much could be read into any of the other primaries that have taken place, but so much importance has been given to D.C., because it’s D.C.

Let’s Examine to Death the D.C. Republican Primary