A.B. Stoddard: Can Trump be dethroned?

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Des Moines, Iowa — The four words haunting the Republican establishment just two days from the start of caucusing here: “Is it too late?” If Donald Trump succeeds in winning Monday night, most of even his most ardent critics believe he will win in New Hampshire eight days later and go on to run the table.

{mosads}There is no shortage of accusations as to why this outsider candidate was given his unprecedented opportunity to surge among a conservative voting base in Iowa, untouched by any sustained campaign attacks, while other the GOP candidates trained their fire on each other, giving him a pass. Those who kept thinking casino magnate Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers would surely do something to take him out were wrong, and everyone has agreed the window to take Trump down — no matter what happens Monday — has closed.

Trump is no longer competing with anyone in the establishment, but is in a fight for the finish line in Iowa with Ted Cruz. Universally loathed by party stalwarts, Cruz now finds them conceding publicly they would rather have Trump as their nominee. The Texas senator clung the longest to Trump’s angry populist pitch, hoping to nab his voters when he went down, and only recently turned against Trump, highlighting the billionaire’s many flip-flops, his indifference to conservative tenets like limited government, and his adolescent need for attention and addiction to Twitter. This weekend Cruz too is wondering, “Is it too late?”

With Trump having tainted Cruz’s candidacy by questioning his eligibility to be president due to his Canadian birth, polls now show Trump passing Cruz here. Cruz is also facing an eleventh-hour threat from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is surging in support and has worried Cruz enough he is spending precious dollars in a last-minute attack on Rubio’s record on immigration, calling him the “Republican Obama.” This has given the establishment a sliver of hope — that perhaps Rubio’s late, caucus-eve surge will succeed as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s did in 2012 (even though it took weeks to declare him the victor) and he could tie with Cruz or even come in second.

But Cruz, Rubio and everyone in the GOP establishment might recall that Trump has hired the very people who helped Santorum win Iowa last time and they are now working to turn out first-time caucusgoers for Donald Trump on Monday.

It may be too late.


Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Ted Cruz

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