Photo by Tevin Mickens

“I’m not interested in Republican-on-Republican violence.” – Ted Cruz on Meet the Press (July 5, 2015)

 

“You’re fired,” cooed reigning Miss USA Nia Sanchez, her angelic voice ricocheting through the trees and across the expansive arena. “It’s all over.”

The Republican primary was a jungle, and Donald Trump could feel it turning against him as he grappled with severe blood loss in the wake of a string of attacks from his fellow tributes.

“You can’t go on like this,” Ben Carson told him. “If you don’t put an end to your maniacal parade of terror, none of us will survive the Games.” Even before the Games began, Trump had planned to align himself with Carson, whose medical background made him a natural ally in the arena. Trump couldn’t deny that this very alliance was the only thing keeping him alive.

But he also resented Carson’s badgering and had no problem telling him to put a sock in it. Trump was struggling to conquer the ungodly pain from his battle wounds, but he was also soaring in the hearts and minds of viewers. His conduct in the arena was making him an early fan favorite at the same time that it made him the most dangerous target in the Games.

Trump nonetheless had doubts about how long the surge in viewer support would last. On top of the emotionally wrenching departure of sponsors like NBC and Univision, he would have to navigate the ever-growing field of bloodthirsty tributes.

Of course, he wasn’t worried about everyone. Some viewers called Carly Fiorina the “Girl Who Fires” for the shocking number of layoffs under her leadership at Hewlett-Packard, but she was clearly a poser. Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, was an experienced tribute, sure, but he had been limping through the Games since the very beginning. Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s bizarre battle cry (“Tanned. Rested. Ready.”) was alienating sponsors and viewers alike.

But Trump also had to consider the Careers, tributes that had trained for their whole lives in anticipation of the Games and were all but guaranteed the support of the Gamemakers themselves. They included Florida senator and notorious speed demon Marco Rubio as well as Wisconsin governor and labor slayer Scott Walker. There was also Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who had a penchant for acting out on the Senate floor and had managed to attract enough sponsors to become a real threat.

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, however, embodied the Career label most. All of the tributes hated Jeb. Here was a guy, they thought, who didn’t have to work for his sponsors because his father and brother had already emerged as victors in the Games. The Bush brand made Jeb a household name and a popular pick among viewers. Still, some doubted Jeb’s political acumen and insisted that he wouldn’t be able to sail to victory on blood ties alone, with most experts agreeing that his bilingualism was a non-factor in the arena.

“Donald,” Carson gently called from the river as he collected water to clean Trump’s wounds, finally pulling him out of his trance. “You’re never going to heal if you don’t get some real sleep. I’ll stay up and watch out for the others so you can relax.”

Reluctantly admitting that his companion was right, Trump started counting sheep (and his blessings, still relieved that the absolutely jacked Congressman Paul Ryan hadn’t been chosen in this election cycle’s reaping). He dreamed of clinching the nomination and joining Mitt Romney in the glittering halls of victory.

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