Years ago, Bill Buckley, the prominent editor of the influential conservative magazine National Review, proclaimed that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.” Barring a shocking upset in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the race for the Republican nomination, following the Iowa caucuses, has likely been reduced to three viable candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
So, today, if we are to indeed re-apply the Buckley Rule to 2016, who is the rightwardmost viable candidate left in the race?
To begin with, it obviously is not Donald Trump. Even if one is inclined to believe his recent conversion to conservatism, there is a question as to whether that conversion is complete. After all, in the debate held this past weekend, Trump said, with his usual vagueness, that his health care plan was to not leave people to die in the street — implying that some conservatives wanted that. He enthusiastically endorsed the idea of government seizing people’s private property for the benefit of large corporations. That, of course, is no surprise from a man who once tried to take an old woman’s home to build a parking lot for his casino.
That — combined with his past support of the Clintons, universal health care, and gun control — should be enough to prove Trump is no conservative, principled or otherwise. He is simply a man trying to seize control of a movement in order to get elected, much as Hillary Clinton is with the progressive movement. So who, then, is the most viable conservative left in the race?
On the face of it, the answer might seem to be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. However, on closer examination, some of the same questions that challenge Trump also apply to Cruz. His well-documented unbridled ambition would, naturally, lead one to question how committed a conservative he truly is. Is he leading a movement, or merely taking advantage of it? He may be a more skilled politician than Trump, but in the end, he is no less manipulative. Moreover, given his abrasive personality, there are real questions about how viable a candidate he truly is — both in the primary and the general. His continued presence in the race may merely serve to split the vote enough to help Trump.
The real answer to the question of who the most rightward viable candidate left in the race is simple: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Although he is now being painted with the broad brush of the establishment, it is important to remember that he began his national political career by challenging a sitting governor for a U.S. Senate seat. Far from being supported by the establishment, he was attacked and denigrated constantly by them, as he ran an insurgent, Buckley-esque campaign against the D.C. favorite in the race, Charlie Crist — who’s now a Democrat.
In that race — as he has throughout the presidential election — Marco Rubio proved an effective, articulate spokesman for the conservative movement. Rubio has consistently embraced the three pillars of the modern conservatism: social issues, a strong national defense, and fiscal conservatism. He has made those values relatable to millions of Americans along the way, in the face of consistent opposition from the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and many members of his own party.
It is long past time for conservatives to come together to support their most viable option left in this race, and that man is Rubio. He will lead the Republican Party — and the entire country — into a better tomorrow, a more prosperous future. That is the Republican Party that this country desperately needs, and that is the party that Rubio is ready to lead.
Hopefully, Republicans are ready for him.