Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The Ides of March arrives, to ominous portent for whom?

On this very date, on the Ides of March some 2,060 years ago, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the floor of the Roman Senate.

And unlike Sen. Lindsey Graham's joke about doing the same to Ted Cruz -- in Graham's version, no one would care and no one would be convicted -- the murder of Caesar touched off another round in a long and disastrous civil war.

"Hardly any of his assassins survived him for more than three years, or died a natural death," the Roman historian Suetonius tells us. "They were all condemned, and they perished in various ways — some by shipwreck, some in battle; some took their own lives with the self-same dagger with which they had impiously slain Caesar."

Civil war can be so nasty.

Speaking of which, it's another big day for the Republicans!

A few months ago, their nightmare scenario would have been a drawn-out, inconclusive primary season, with nobody getting enough delegates to claim the crown, followed by a hotly contested convention in Cleveland in which the hated Cruz swoops in to seize the nomination of a divided party. What could possibly be worse than that?

Well, Donald Trump would be worse than that. Their worst-case scenario of a deadlocked convention has now become the goal to which they longingly aspire, their lastest, bestest hope of denying the Donald his prize.

Tonight's primaries will go a long way toward writing that narrative. Marco Rubio, the apple-cheeked wonder from Florida, is widely expected to go down to a stinging defeat in his home state, a loss that would end his presidential campaign and put a serious hurting on his political career. Polls indicate that Rubio might even place third, behind the frontrunner Trump and behind Cruz as well, a major humiliation for a man who just a few weeks ago saw his path clearing for the nomination.

In another winner-take-all primary, this one up in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich is gamely plowing a straight furrow, his eyes never wavering from the horizon. It seems inconceivable that a deeply conservative party will turn to a relative moderate to lead it through crisis, but the grim-faced Kasich doesn't allow himself to think such long-term thoughts. His immediate goal is to deny Ohio's delegates to Trump, and by doing so prolong the campaign.

Once that's accomplished, he'll turn the mule around and start on the next furrow. If nothing else, you have to admire the man's determination.

This could turn out to be a pivotal moment for the Democrats as well. I've said all along that Bernie Sanders has no realistic chance of winning the nomination, but this is the night that I might be proved wrong. The polls show Sanders trailing Hillary Clinton badly in both Florida and North Carolina, but he's down by just eight points in Ohio and two in Illinois, with a possible narrow lead in Missouri.

If those polls prove accurate, that would be a decent but insufficient showing for Sanders, and whatever path that he thinks he sees to the nomination would disappear. On the other hand, as we saw in Michigan last week, the polls are sometimes as accurate as the Roman reading of entrails, and from here on out the primary schedule looks pretty favorable to the Bern. None of the Democratic primaries is winner-take-all, but wins in major states such as Ohio and Illinois would give the scruffy, underdog band of Sanders' supporters some cause to rally.

And as Julius Caesar used to say a couple of millenia back, "It is not these well-fed, long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking."

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.