With Donald Trump’s victory in the Nevada caucuses, and even as betting markets make him the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright, the campaigns of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) enter deeper into Delusionland.
The Cruz campaign seems to be working under the delusion that if they beat Rubio in the SEC primaries, Rubio will drop out. That’s insane. Rubio isn’t going anywhere. He’s picking up establishment endorsements at a rapid clip, Jeb! Bush’s entire fundraising infrastructure has shifted over to him, and he believes that if he can carry through to the late primaries, he’ll outlast everyone else and then beat Trump one-on-one in enough states to either win outright or take his candidacy to a brokered convention. Cruz is also relying on a big win in Texas, but the numbers there suggest he has no shot of winning the 50 percent necessary in order to turn Texas into a winner-take-all state; the most optimistic poll shows him at 37 percent to Trump’s 29 percent, and the latest poll from Emerson shows Cruz at 29, Trump at 28, and Rubio at 25.
Meanwhile, Rubio thinks that Cruz will drop out after the SEC primaries; he’ll have had his shot, and he’ll have come up short. That’s nonsense, too. Cruz has a ton of cash in the bank, a heavy base of support in states like California, and may have the only shot at winning eight states outside of Trump – a prerequisite for nomination eligibility. That means the only shot for Rubio to win would be for Cruz to drop out and endorse him; even that might not help Rubio, since Cruz supporters could shift to Trump. At the same time, Rubio’s increasingly nasty attacks on Cruz mean that Cruz won’t personally bend to Rubio.
Rubio himself sounds like he doesn’t need Cruz’s support; he said today that a Rubio-Cruz dream ticket, or the reverse, “never happens, and it isn’t going to happen now.” He’s wooing establishment types, which won’t help him much in a three-way race. Today, the campaign announced, in silly fashion, that Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn would be endorsing Rubio – just in time to miss the Nevada caucuses entirely. Well done, Team Rubio. And Rubio himself said today, “You don’t win the nomination by how many states you win.”
Earth to Rubio: You have to win at least eight. So far, you haven’t won any.
And so Rubio and Cruz savage one another, even as Trump soars to victory. The attraction of Delusionland is simply too strong.