From Jeb! Bush to Chris Christie to John Kasich, this season’s mainstream “establishment” Republicans don’t have the punching power to knock out an outside brawler like Donald John Trump.

If rolling polling at is a predictor of things to come, the New York billionaire who can dominate the news cycle at will just might win both Iowa and New Hampshire.

For sitting Govs. Christie of New Jersey and Kasich in Ohio, their one-time bromance is in divorce court as each dings the other as they fend for their political lives in the small Granite State, where voters can cross party lines on Feb. 9 to help one candidate at the expense of another. Their one-state bet of “doing well” to move on is an acid test that will probably send both back home.

Fools Chasing Fool’s Gold

John Kasich and Chris Christie have spent considerable time and many millions on the campaign trail outside their respective state borders. Reports show Gov. Christie was out of his state for 261 days last year. Gov. Kasich has spent so much time in the tiny state that he might qualify for residency.

This year’s Republican race has turned into such a bizzaro world that even former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, a Republican who ran for president in 1996 and lost to Bill Clinton, finds himself adrift in today’s political world. “I thought I was a traditional Republican conservative,” the AP reported Mr. Dole saying, as he struggles to come to grips with the idea super-conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as president. Sen. Cruz has blamed previous Republican failures to win the White House on the party’s tendency to elect mainstream candidates like Sen. Dole. For traditional Republicans, like Mr. Dole, Donald Trump’s legendary “deal maker” powers seem more appetizing than the non-deal maker Ted Cruz promises to be.

Voters will split their votes among Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Mr. Christie and Mr. Kasich in less than two weeks. By splitting their votes, none of them come away “the story” that grips the news and causes voters to break their way.

Like all the other radical Republican conservatives he’s running against, the 63-year old Kasich probably senses what the good Lord knows—he won’t win  in Iowa [Trump 37% v Kasich 2%] or in New Hampshire [Trump 34% v Kasich 6%]. His best hope is to place second or even third. Anything lower than that knocks a candidate out of contention, no questions asked.

Should the big story be that Donald Trump rolls out of Iowa a winner, then rolls out of New Hampshire a winner, it won’t matter whether John Kasich or Chris Christie or Jeb! Bush finishes second or third. They are finished either way. Gov. Kasich holds out hope for a little life after he dies in New Hampshire. The blunt, candid and harsh reality the electorate will deliver this year will turn their campaigns homeward. For the second and likely final time of his lifetime, John Kasich the career politician will be passed over again, this time for a boisterous, bombastic billionaire with no government experience who’s simple promise is to “Make America Great Again.”

For John Kasich or Chris Christie or even Jeb! Bush or Marco Rubio, landing in second or third place in New Hampshire will be a fool finding Fool’s Gold. Donald Trump can run the table, leaving them to wonder whether they bail on the guy they mocked and ridiculed as unfit for the office or suck it up and join voters who picked him over them?