On Twitter, we’re seeing the beginning of the “blame Cruz for losing Florida” chorus from Rubio supporters. From a candidate who has won exactly one primary, and shown he can beat Trump only in large metropolitan, largely centrist cities, taking second place with little headway on delegates, Rubio’s supporters sure put a lot of faith in their candidate.
— Jessica (@JessicaGG25) March 5, 2016
Schleifer covers Cruz for CNN. You can almost physically feel the spin as he tries to pit Rubio supporters against Cruz.
Behind the Cruz play in Florida? The belief, unlike Kasich's & Rubio's, that Trump can be beaten BEFORE convention. https://t.co/7s0rrSSr1D
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) March 5, 2016
Rubio supporters would love to lay the blame for Rubio’s situation on Cruz, who has won Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, and taken second in delegate count just about everywhere else. And now Cruz has shown he’s serious about taking on Trump, including in Florida, where Trump’s lead is beyond Cruz plus Rubio, and Cruz trails Rubio by double digits.
Cruz and Rubio have invested a lot of time, ego, money, and credibility in another game. It is called “Win the White House.” You win the White House by winning delegates. Florida is a Winner Take All state. There is no reason for Cruz to give up on Florida. It isn’t like Cruz voters are going to go to Rubio just because he doesn’t campaign in Florida and it really isn’t like Cruz and Rubio are competing for the same pool of voters. If anything, Cruz has the best chance of pulling votes away from Trump.
Cruz is pulling out all the stops in the Sunshine State. He’s opened offices in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, Lakeland, Fort Myers, Boca Raton, Fort Myers and other cities. Remember, Florida is a closed primary, so only registered Republicans can vote. None of this independent surge like we had in New Hampshire or Democrat crossover in places like Georgia where you can change parties at the polls.
There is a risk, in that the GOP has picked up voters in many areas, but note that net Democrat registration is up in more of the populated areas too. I asked Brandon Finnigan of Decision Desk HQ to plot that red shift on his population-adjusted map. Hopefully he’ll do that for me.
— Brandon Finnigan (@B_M_Finnigan) March 5, 2016
If Cruz can generate momentum in the conservative Christian panhandle, Jacksonville metro and the space coast, he can make a play. Much of it depends on how Cruz does in Kansas and Louisiana today (we don’t expect much in Michigan, but could be surprised). People do like a winner, and voter psychology matters.
If Rubio is seen as a lost cause, it will help Cruz consolidate the opposition to Trump.
Yes, it’s a risky strategy, but at this point, there’s no “safe” strategy. And doing nothing will hand Trump the nomination without a fight. So to Rubio supporters: I like your candidate, I think he has a way of throwing Trump off balance and getting under his skin. But if you don’t win, you don’t have the right to whine about Cruz, who does win.
Either get some wins, or get out of the way, and encourage your man to join a unity ticket as the VP.