Friday morning, America and the world will say goodbye to Nancy Reagan in California. But Tuesday, it was Michigan and Mississippi that may have signaled the end of Ronald Reagan’s fabled coalition that ruled Republican politics for 40 years.
After absorbing a brutal wave of attacks from the GOP establishment, including a nasty broadside from Mitt Romney, a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire who once loyally supported Hillary Clinton and who continues to lavish praise on Planned Parenthood swept to victory Tuesday night. Donald Trump easily won the night on the strength of a working-class coalition that included evangelicals in Mississippi and Reagan Democrats across Michigan. These are the same working-class voters who feel abandoned by their president, by their government and by the Republican Party.
Bible-toting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) should have won Mississippi. Ohio Gov. John Kasich should have won nearby Michigan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) should have finished as a runner-up somewhere, anywhere.
Instead, Rubio and rest of the GOP field were left watching in horror as Trump crushed all comers at the polls and then used his victory speech to hawk steaks, wine and the most fabulous magazines you will ever read.
So long to Morning in America. Say hello to Tuesday Nights at QVC.
Trump’s big wins in Michigan and Mississippi were not the worst news of the night for the GOP ruling class. Instead, that dubious distinction was saved for the complete collapse of Rubio’s campaign one week before Florida’s crucial primary. For Republican leaders, Rubio’s timing could not have been worse.
Florida’s winner-take-all primary was rigged by the establishment to provide a firewall for Jeb Bush or Rubio back when wise men spoke knowingly of an “establishment lane.” Instead, as with most of the maneuvers masterminded by the Republican National Committee, the Florida firewall now seems to be playing into the hands of the man Beltway Republicans hate the most. And after tonight, the only politician who has any chance of stopping Trump seven days from now is the second-most hated politician in Washington, Ted Cruz.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) likens the choice between Cruz and Trump as being similar to having to choose death by firing squad or from drinking poison. As for me, I will defer for now and instead spend time tomorrow watching some of the Gipper’s old speeches, saying goodbye to his first lady on Friday, and after that, sorting through the wreckage that once was Ronald Reagan’s proud Republican Party.
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”