A new, more robust phase of attacks on Trump began only last Thursday — to be more precise, Thursday night about five minutes or so into the debate, when Marco Rubio wheeled on Trump about his hiring of illegal aliens and Ted Cruz joined in. From this perspective, we have only had a very limited test the last few days of whether the counter-assault on Trump has any hope of working, and the results tonight are slightly encouraging, if hardly dispositive. In Virginia, the main aggressor, Marco Rubio, who had been holding large, energetic rallies over the last few days featuring high-spirited attacks on Trump, came within a couple of points of upsetting the mogul. The Club for Growth had run anti-Trump ads in Oklahoma and Arkansas — and Cruz beat Trump in the former and fell just short in the latter.
Everyone will have their favorite theory of who should drop out and what deal should be cut among the candidates, but all that seems fanciful for now. The most we can hope for is that the candidates, through self-interest if nothing else (everyone will lose if Trump stays this strong), will spend the vast majority of their time and energy hitting Trump. As for the outside groups that have been running anti-Trump ads, and their supporters who want to stop Trump, they should do all they can to blanket the airwaves in the big winner-take-all states on March 15, where there is still time to have an effect — and let the chips fall where they may. The field may naturally winnow — Cruz passed his test in Texas, will Rubio in Florida and Kasich in Ohio? — and if it doesn’t, there is still time for some sort of deal among the remaining non-Trump candidates, which will surely have to be driven by sheer desperation.
But make no mistake: Trump is in a dominant position, and the anti-Trump forces are now engaged in a rear-guard struggle to pull him back from the cusp of the nomination and, most likely, get to a contested convention rather than nominate an alternative outright. There is no point in holding back now — the next two weeks are absolutely crucial.