Don’t look now, but Cruz is ahead of Rubio in Texas, California, and Rubio’s home state of Florida.
Sure that can change, but here’s the thing — much of the conventional wisdom that Cruz needs to drop out so Rubio can win is formed more by an animus to Cruz than a dispassionate analysis of the race.
While I have had a lot of conversations with Cruz supporters in Georgia willing to jump to Rubio to stop Trump due to polling suggesting Rubio has edged ahead of Cruz, the reality is that a significant portion of Cruz’s support nationwide would go to Trump if Cruz gets out.
Some polls have that number at about 40% going to Trump. That’s pretty significant. In states like Rubio’s home state of Florida that is going to keep Rubio from winning. In states like Texas, California, and even Georgia that solidifies Trump’s lead.
To be fair, if Rubio bails, a lot of his support goes to Kasich. But more Rubio supporters would go to Cruz.
Looking at the electoral map, between Cruz and Rubio, Cruz has won a state and Rubio has not. Rubio has certainly come ahead of Cruz in South Carolina and Nevada, but when we get to Super Tuesday Cruz has a better change of picking up more delegates due to, among other states, Texas.
There are Rubio supporters who keep saying “but the map after Super Tuesday favors Rubio.” Statistic mixed with voter psychology is a devil’s brew. The more Rubio has won no states, the more voter psychology turns toward winners. Just look at Nevada where Trump beat what everyone had presumed was his ceiling. Your statistics mean little when confronted by a voter’s desire to back a winner. And did I mention Florida’s polling?
Listen, I know that Rubio supporters despise Cruz as much as Cruz supporters despise Rubio. I happen to like them both very much. But neither stands a shot of winning unless something happens and I think much of the conventional wisdom is generated by people with animus toward Cruz.
Before we get further along, we ought to look at this a bit more dispassionately. And in the meantime, can they at least call a truce. And can Rubio finally publicly admit he made a mistake on the Gang of Eight instead of trying to defend it?
UPDATE: Having written all that, consider this from the Cook Political Report:
Heading into Super Tuesday on March 1, it’s increasingly apparent Rubio is the only Republican left who can stop Trump. But that’s not to say Cruz, Kasich, and Ben Carson don’t matter. The more delegates Cruz or any of the others win in the SEC primaries on Super Tuesday, the greater the odds that neither Rubio nor Trump will win 1,237 delegates by June, raising the prospect of a contested convention in Cleveland.
By our math, Trump would need to win 246 of the available 624 delegates on Super Tuesday to be “on pace” for 1,237, while Rubio would need just 191. But to come close to that number, Rubio will have to prove he can meet tough viability thresholds in southern states like Texas and Georgia (where he will need 20 percent of the vote to be eligible to win statewide delegates), as well as show strength among more moderate Republican voters in places like Massachusetts and Vermont.