I wouldn't say literally every center-left pundit I know expects Marco Rubio to win the Republicans' 2016 presidential nomination, but it's awfully close to 100%. For most of the political observers I know, it's practically a foregone conclusion -- the pieces have already fallen into place for the far-right Floridian.
Nate Silver recently said, "I sometimes feel with Rubio like he’s the contestant on a reality show where it’s totally obvious that he’s eventually going to win, but the network needs to create dramatic subplots for 17 weeks before it happens."
And all of these assumptions may very well be true. As I argued a month ago, if the Amateur Trio currently leading the GOP polls fades, the race for the Republican nomination is likely to come down to two governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio). The Florida senator has reason to be optimistic -- Bush is struggling badly, and Kasich is fading.
But there's still that Ted Cruz character out there, and his current standing in the race is largely under-valued.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas brought in more than $12 million for his presidential campaign during the last fund-raising quarter, which ended on September 30, his campaign announced on Thursday. [...] ...Mr. Cruz’s amount is double what one rival, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, announced raising over the same period, despite Mr. Rubio’s popularity among some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors. The $12 million figure suggests that Mr. Cruz -- who has battled fiercely with his own party’s leaders -- has amassed a committed following of small donors.
Rubio's $6 million quarterly haul is a sharp drop-off from the second quarter. His campaign aides had some excuses, but those same fundraising obstacles applied to Cruz, and he raised twice as much as Rubio did.
The Texas Republican has considerable resources, a real ground game, a credible reputation as an enemy of the GOP establishment, and decent poll numbers that are likely to grow if fickle voters grow tired of the Amateur Trio. Indeed, the senator has carefully positioned himself to benefit from his rivals' eventual decline.
Why shouldn't Cruz be seen as a plausible nominee?
Postscript: For the record, Cruz huddled with House Republicans on Wednesday night, a development I suggested seemed likely to lead to intra-party mischief. A day later, House Republicans descended into chaos, unable to elect their own Speaker, prompting Cruz to take a victory lap.