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Marco Rubio's 'denial' obscures his many failures

After losing 14 nominating contests in 15 tries, Marco Rubio thinks his campaign is on the right track. That's delusional.
Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio participates in a Super Tuesday primary election night rally at Tropical Park in Miami, Fla., on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Brian Blanco/EPA)
Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio participates in a Super Tuesday primary election night rally at Tropical Park in Miami, Fla., on March 1, 2016.
In 1984, Election Day was unkind to presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. The Democratic candidate expected to do poorly, but as returns came in, Mondale ended up losing just about everywhere -- except Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
More than three decades later, Super Tuesday was also unkind to presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. The Republican candidate expected to do poorly, but as returns came in, Rubio ended up losing just about everywhere -- except Minnesota and Virginia's 8th congressional district, which just so happens to be literally inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway.
Evidently, jokes about Donald Trump's hair, skin, and genitals were not the key to electoral success. Go figure.
About two hours before the first round of results were announced, Team Rubio leaked word that the Florida senator was going to have a surprisingly great night, including possible wins in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Minnesota. In the end, he ended up losing three of those four, and came in third in two of them.
It was part of a complete disaster for Rubio and his campaign. He now has one win -- the Minnesota caucuses -- but Rubio finished third in 8 of the 11 contests last night. He finished below the 20% delegate threshold in three of them. In the race for delegates overall, Trump now leads Rubio by a roughly three-to-one margin.
And yet, the Floridian has a bizarre habit of pretending failure is success. In Iowa, this worked quite well -- Rubio, who was expected to finish third, pretended his third-place showing was an extraordinary triumph, and the media inexplicably played along. Last night, however, Rubio once again tried to pretend his defeats were evidence of success, prompting journalists to wonder what in the world this guy is talking about.

CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday night asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who ended up winning just one state on Super Tuesday, whether he was in denial about his chances in the Republican presidential primary. Rubio, of course, denied that he is in denial. [...] Tapper reminded Rubio that Trump continued to dominate the primary with several big wins on Super Tuesday. "Senator, you keep saying that, and he keeps winning states, and you're talking about Virginia and that's another state that Donald Trump won," Tapper said. "And I'm just wondering if there's a certain amount of denial that you're in about this race."

After the last debate, there appeared to be a consensus that Rubio was positioned as the principal Trump rival, but even that status is looking quite shaky -- especially after Ted Cruz, who's now the clear #2 in the delegate race, posted three Super Tuesday wins.
Team Rubio, however, already has a response for critics: sure, Rubio has lost 14 out of 15 nominating contests, and sure, most of Rubio's defeats have been by double digits, and sure, a majority of his losses left him in third place instead of second, but none of that will matter by the summer. The New York Times reported yesterday:

Senator Marco Rubio's campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, briefed donors and potential allies with a good news/bad news message about the future on Tuesday morning, hours before Democrats began casting ballots in nominating contests in 11 states. The bad news, according to Mr. Sullivan, is that the race will most likely drag into the Republican National Convention in July. But the good news, he added, is that the Rubio campaign is going to the convention, according to a person in attendance, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified in order to be candid about a private meeting.

The general idea goes like this: it takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination before the convention. With so many candidates sticking around and slowly adding to their delegate totals, it's possible that no one will reach the threshold by the time the primaries and caucuses are over.
According to the argument, that will lead to a contested convention in which party officials may be able to elect whomever they please -- including Rubio, who could end up with the nomination despite all of his many losses.
If that sounds far-fetched, you're not the only one who thinks so. A Rubio backer who heard the campaign manager's presentation yesterday told Politico, "It was a presentation that defied reality."
I realize, of course, that this is a bizarre year in which strange things keep happening, but let's be clear: Rubio's claim that he'll win the nomination at the convention is a desperation move. His campaign has been trying to lay this groundwork for weeks, but that doesn't make it any less pathetic.
The Florida primary on March 15 is looking more and more like Rubio's last stand.