Dear Iowa: To Make William F. Buckley Happy, Vote Ted Cruz

William F. Buckley Jr. would want the most electable conservative -- and that's Marco Rubio. (Photo by Greg Richter.)

National Review’s latest issue devoted to debunking Donald Trump’s Oval Office hopes is a decent effort to stand against what the Republication sees as a threat to the party, but to fully realize founder William F. Buckley’s maxim of nominating the most electable conservative it must go a step further: strategic voting.

Trump’s towering lead nationally isn’t as impressive in Iowa, where the first leg of the national horse race will begin with a Feb. 1 caucus; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is running neck-and-neck with The Donald there.

That’s important because the national polls really don’t mean jack squat. The primaries and caucuses are held state-by-state over a period of a few months — not nationally, not all at once. Iowa might also be a photo finish. If Trump loses there, it makes a Quinquagintuple Crown impossible, and voters in other states start to think he’s not as invincible.

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So National’s Review’s strategy of taking down Trump is a good one from its perspective. Whether it will work is another story.

If it does, it could put Cruz in the catbird’s seat — and that may prove problematic for The Buckley Rule: Cruz might be more legitimately conservative than Trump, but he could be far less electable.

If you kill off the king, his replacement might never even reign. You’ll need to find a spare to the heir.

Who might that be? Marco Rubio.

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Currently running third nationally in Iowa – and in the top five in New Hampshire — the Florida senator rankles the farthest right as weak on the amnesty issue, among other things. But Rubio isn’t the only GOP hopeful who’s flipped on issues — so has Trump. There’s an argument to be made that if Rubio can capture the nomination, he’ll be embraced by enough of Trump’s supporters to win in November. In fact, one poll shows him as the only Republican who would beat both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders if the general election were held today.

National ReviewA Cruz win in Iowa makes a Trump nomination less likely and puts Rubio more in play in New Hampshire and perhaps beyond. But voting for Rubio in Iowa could just prove to weaken Cruz and hand the first win to Trump, strengthening him even more.

So if you are a pro-Rubio Iowan, vote Cruz.

For that matter, you should vote for Cruz if you are for anybody but Trump. Cruz is the only person in Iowa who has a chance of beating him.

According to CBN News, Cruz made this argument himself to a group of Iowa pastors on Monday, telling them:

We talked before about the politics of this being effectively a two-man race between me and Donald Trump, let me talk for a moment if you happen to be thinking about another candidate beyond the two of us. There are a lot of good people in this race. There are a lot of people who I like, who I respect, who are friends of mine, who I have no intention of insulting or denigrating. But I will say right now, between Donald and me, this is neck and neck. It is an absolute dead heat. And if Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire, if he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there is a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee. And the next seven days in Iowa will determine whether or not that happens. So even if you’re thinking about another candidate, the simple reality is there’s only one campaign that can beat Trump in this state, and if conservatives simply stand up and unite, that’s everything.

Naturally, Cruz wants to use any argument he can to get people to vote for himself, but his reasoning does make sense even if you are not a Cruz fan.

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has stayed out of the endorsement business during primaries, agreed on Tuesday, saying,

[T]hematically, philosophically, he’s exactly right here. Theoretically, if Cruz doesn’t stop Trump in Iowa, there may not be any stopping Trump.

But once the Iowa contest is over, it’s time to re-evaluate. As the decision rolls through succeeding states, the dynamics may change, so if you don’t live in Iowa there’s really no way to know yet for whom you should eventually vote.

I live in Alabama, for instance, and won’t vote until March 1, so I have no idea yet whether I will vote for my favorite candidate or for a spoiler. I’m waiting to see what happens in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc.

The fact that some states are now giving out their delegates proportionally complicates the matter, but shouldn’t sway anyone from picking the most viable candidate — from his or her own perspective — as the contest comes to your state.

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That said, I have been predicting Rubio will be the next president ever since I saw him in the first Republican debate back in August. My prediction has nothing to do with issues, but with the fact that, out of everyone running in both major parties, he sounds the most presidential. The same was true eight years ago with Barack Obama.

I have stuck with that prediction through Rubio’s slide in the polls, and now he is back up. That doesn’t make me Nostradamus. After all, I also predicted Trump’s downfall every time he has said something outrageous — and I’ve yet to be right on that.