I love Senator Mike Lee. If you don’t know why, or don’t love him as well, I encourage you to check our archives for articles about him, and to follow him on Twitter.
Senator Lee had a plan during the election season. It was a plan to save conservative policies and ideas from the populist vortex, to unify two disparate wings of the Republican party, and to win the election against Hillary Clinton by using good ideas, good values, and good governance. It was a plan many of us in the political blogs and on social media talked about many times. It is a plan that was thwarted, more’s the pity.
Mike Lee had the plane ticket, the Miami hotel suite, and the buy-in. All he needed was for Marco Rubio to show up.
In the week before the Florida Republican primary in March, Lee headed early to the GOP presidential debate there with a mission: to convince one Senate friend, Rubio, to ally with another, Ted Cruz, and form a unity ticket to block Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination.
But at the last minute, as Lee prepared to board his plane, Rubio backed out of the meeting.
Hyper-partisan Rubio fanatics will say there could never be peace with Ted and his supporters. Hyper-partisan Cruz fanatics will say there could ever be peace with Marco and his supporters. But they are wrong. There could’ve been, there should’ve been, and apparently, there would’ve been, if …
“Cruz was serious enough about the alliance that he authorized Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to go to Miami ahead of the CNN debate there on March 10 to help work out a deal,” the authors write.
“I think the two of them as running mates would have been unstoppable,” Lee later told CNN. “They would have united the party.”
Though Rubio was initially open to the unity idea, according to two sources familiar with the talks, he declined the meeting with Lee, who bought the ticket at his own expense.
“I don’t think I can do this,” Rubio told Lee, according to one of the sources. “I don’t think I can back out and not be a presidential candidate prior to the primary in Florida.”
I remain a big fan of Rubio, but this was a terrible decision. Even worse was his decision not to endorse Cruz when it became a two-man primary. Any credibility that bought him with his base was lost when he later went in for Trump anyway. A bad move.
Obviously, the problem was the question of who would top the ticket. I clearly think it should have been Rubio, but it’s equally clear that’s not what the deal was going to be. And maybe they are smarter than I. A Cruz-led ticket may have attracted more Trump voters than one led by Rubio. Rubio was foundering before Ted, too. Still, it hardly matters now.
What matters is that it was a bad move, and they should have worked it out and they didn’t. And in Florida, Rubio’s popularity probably drove a lot of the vote that handed the state to Trump. Think about what that would have meant had they run together.
It is, practically speaking, pointless “what if”-ism, as far as how the future unfolds. But as it pertains to reviewing what went right and what went wrong in 2016, this was definitely something that went wrong, at least from the perspective of people that cared about conservative ideas surviving past November 8th.
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