Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Senator Ted Cruz (L) looks over at rival candidate Senator Marco Rubio on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2015.
Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

Why Cruz is walking away from the Florida primary

With just four days remaining before the Florida primary, it’s hard to know what to make of some of the recent statewide polls. Looking at the data released this week, for every poll that shows Donald Trump’s lead over Marco Rubio growing to around 20 points, there’s another that shows Trump’s advantage shrinking to single digits.
 
Rubio hasn’t led in any statewide poll in his own home state since mid-April 2015.
 
With this in mind, Ted Cruz’s operation leaked word several days ago that it would head into the Sunshine State this week, undermine Rubio’s support, and knock the senator out of the race once and for all. It would include a series of new field offices and a major advertising investment from a Cruz super PAC.
 
As of late yesterday, however, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard found that those plans have been deemed unnecessary.
The super PACs backing Ted Cruz are opting to skip airing television ads in Florida before next Tuesday’s primary, despite the Cruz campaign hyping up its own effort to prevent rival Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio from winning his delegate-rich home state.
 
“We looked at the numbers, and we decided that Marco Rubio can lose Florida all by himself,” said Kellyanne Conway, president of the Keep the Promise, the multiple super PAC entities backing Cruz. “He doesn’t need our help.”
The super PAC chief said with Rubio struggling in Florida, and John Kasich battling Trump in Ohio, Keep the Promise will direct resources into Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois – the other three states hosting nominating contests on Tuesday.
 
“[W]e’re trying to cover a broader swath of territory – a multi-state contest requires multi-state coverage,” Conway added.
 
So, here’s the question for which there is no obvious answer: was Team Cruz ever serious about Florida, or was it playing a psych-out game against Team Rubio? Is Cruz changing direction or completing one of the year’s biggest head-fakes?
 
The Cruz campaign announced earlier this week, for example, that it was in the process of opening 10 Florida field offices this week, but as Politico’s Marc Caputo discussed with Rachel the other day, it’s not clear if those offices ever actually existed.
 
Now, on the heels of those questions, Cruz’s super PAC, which made headlines on Monday boasting about its ambitious anti-Rubio plans in the senator’s home state, has suddenly decided not to bother with Florida after all.
 
It’s possible, of course, that there’s no chicanery going on. Maybe Cruz really did open those offices. Perhaps Cruz’s super PAC had every intention of buying airtime in Florida. Maybe Team Cruz genuinely believes Rubio is doomed to lose on Tuesday.
 
But don’t rule out the possibility of a ruse intended to get under Rubio’s skin and cause the panic-prone senator to ignore every other Tuesday contest, focusing exclusively on a primary he theoretically should win easily.
 
 

Florida, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz

Why Cruz is walking away from the Florida primary