The supposed two-horse race between Donald J. Trump and Senator Marco Rubio has all but come to an end. In eleven races on Super Tuesday, Rubio came away with just one victory – Minnesota – and two second place achievements, both of which were tied with either Senator Ted Cruz or Governor John Kasich. On Tuesday Rubio won 94 delegates, compared to 237 and 209 credited to Messer’s Trump and Cruz respectively. He now has a grand total of 110.
The race for the nomination has overshadowed all other aspects of the election. Even another wave of Hillary Clinton’s emails probably wouldn’t shift the focus this season. Unlike most other cycles, the Republican Party establishment is vastly diminished by the outsiders in the race. Marco Rubio is the anointed one, receiving the support of the Washington elite and conservative moguls. And this, normally, is enough to see a candidate through to the nomination.
Between underperforming so exceptionally on Super Tuesday and the attacks by former runner (and now Trump endorsee), Chris Christie on his Washington-robotic persona and taglines, Rubio’s case is certainly flushing away.
The Anti-Trump flump
It’s important to remember there have only been fifteen primaries so far. Yet, already the distance between the front runners and the GOP hopeful has left Mr. Rubio with a more ground and less time to make up. The story now centers on how little he has accomplished in this process which will impact the results of forthcoming polling. And with winner-take-all primaries coming up, Rubio needs to win two-thirds of all remaining delegates to have a chance at the nomination.
It’s been reported the senator is now focused on hunting smaller game in Puerto Rico to revitalize a stagnant drive, to bring momentum for the March contests. Only last month the campaign was confident of success in Ohio to reinforce his passage to the nomination. Yet solidifying himself as the anti-Trump candidate, to knock Cruz out of the race, and extract all his support is an idea which is simply failing.
In his home state of Florida, where delegates will not be divided, March 15th could be D-Day for Rubio. Recent polling suggests he is trailing Trump significantly. According to RealClearPolitics.com, Trump leads Rubio by close to 19 points and Cruz by more than 32. And there’s more humiliation: polls pitting Rubio against Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a general election in the state have the Florida native beaten in both hypotheticals by slight margins.
The home-advantage played to Cruz’s favor on Super Tuesday where the senator won his state of Texas, affording him a big win: 102/155 delegates. Without this victory he would be a distant second behind Trump, leaving the businessman virtually unchallenged. Florida has 99 delegates up for grabs; victory is essential for Rubio to sustain a challenge. Failure, however, would capitulate his campaign; recovery would be near impossible, and the US Senator’s reputation would be marked in all future national contests.
In a suspected suspension of Rubio’s campaign, Trump will certainly be crowned the Republican winner even before half of the needed 1,237 delegates are awarded. With Cruz remaining as the only viable alternative (besides an unlikely surge for fourth-placed Kasich), the GOP establishment could presumably implode without a standard-bearer as their nominee.
Owning “the outsider”
Cruz, despite working in Washington, is considered as much an outsider as Trump in this race. Seemingly disliked across the board of Republican peers, his focus on “real” conservative values hopes to sway evangelical support to carry him forward. But two Washington outcasts cannot win over the same voters looking for a different approach. Trump is owning the “outsider” label, having never been a politician before, and without national support of any senior GOP members (until at least the contest is mano a mano) Cruz hasn’t a chance of overtaking the business magnate.
The hope of a Trump v. Rubio race is over for the Republican Party faithful. Any chance of success for the nomination rests with the National Convention. Pulling at least second in the contests until then would help rebuild his reputation in the media and the polls, as well as give him enough delegates to remain strong to continue running. Should Trump not already win over the necessary number of delegates to achieve victory on the first ballot, a second or third round could swing favor elsewhere. In the confusion and heat of the moment, many will hope establishment politics will win over undecided or flaky delegates.
This, however, has not happened since 1948. And with all odds going against the party’s chosen son, saving for a miracle, Rubio’s race is already done.