For good or ill, the presidential nominating calendar is starting to get crowded. Four states held contests over the weekend, four more hold contests today, and a week from today, five big states – Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio – will be home to a mini-Super Tuesday of sorts, with 367 delegates on the line for Republicans.
Marco Rubio, struggling to find his footing, has shifted his focus almost entirely to one state: his own.
“[T]his is just a very different election year. This is going to take a long time. I don’t think anyone has a clear path to 1237 delegates. So buckle up your seat belts – this ride has got a few more tricks and turns.”Rubio is currently trailing GOP front-runner Donald Trump in public polls of his home-state primary but dismissed those numbers, telling reporters that polls “have been all over the place” and “I’m not worried about polls right now.”
Well, maybe he should be. The Florida polls “have been all over the place,” at least with regard to margins, but in literally every statewide poll since last summer, Trump has led Rubio in the senator’s home state. Rubio isn’t “worried about polls right now,” but with only a week remaining, it’s hard to imagine a better time to start caring.
Not that the senator is concerned about such things, but a Monmouth University poll released yesterday found Trump leading Rubio, 38% to 30%, with Ted Cruz further back at 17%, and John Kasich running fourth with 10%. A SurveyUSA poll released this morning shows Trump with a larger advantage, but I’m skeptical of the findings.
In the meantime, Ted Cruz’s super PAC is launching anti-Rubio ads in Florida, and the Trump campaign is doing the same thing. Both appear to be working from a reasonable assumption: if the struggling senator loses his home state next week, after guaranteeing a victory, the Rubio campaign will be effectively, if not literally, over.
It’s why Rubio and his allies are campaigning in Florida as if his political life depends on it – because it does.
And while we have a pretty good idea what happens if Rubio comes up short in the Sunshine State next week – his campaign conceded on Friday that the senator is trailing Trump in Florida – what’s less clear is what happens if Rubio somehow prevails.
Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here: the fact that Rubio is having to invest time, money, and energy in his own home state isn’t an encouraging indicator about the health of his candidacy. Presidential hopefuls generally consider their home states easy victories – Bernie Sanders, for example, won Vermont by 73 points – but as things stand, the junior senator from Florida is having to fight tooth and nail in the hopes of possibly coming from behind in the state he currently represents.
If, hypothetically, the effort pays off, I’m not sure what the Rubio campaign’s pitch will sound like. By the time the dust settles on next week’s primaries and caucuses, Republicans will have participated in contests in 29 states, not including D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico. If Rubio manages to win Florida, he’ll still probably have lost 27 of those states.
It’s at this point that Rubio will begin telling party insiders that they should use a contested convention to make him the nominee anyway? The candidate who struggled to win his home state and lost nearly everywhere else should be the GOP’s top pick, election results notwithstanding?
Borrowing a meme, it seems the campaign’s plan looks something like this:
1. After losing practically everywhere, Rubio might scramble to possibly win his home state.
Postscript: Rachel talked to Politico’s Marc Caputo last night about developments in Florida. The segment is definitely worth your time.