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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Why Marco Rubio is not the top threat to Donald Trump



Conventional wisdom appears to be setting in that A) Marco Rubio is the candidate best positioned to block Donald Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination and B) That it's probably too late to stop Trump any way.

The John Kasich and Ted Cruz campaigns, however, argue otherwise.

Here is the Cruz campaign argument against Rubio, laid out in a memo released earlier this week by the Texas senator's chief strategist Jason Johnson:

Trump can’t be beaten from the political Left, with a candidate who emphatically supports amnesty and who allows Trump to be considered the “conservative” in that context.

Rubio has yet to win a primary state.  On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Rubio was asked simply, “what state can you win?”  Rubio replied, Florida on March 15.  

Rubio’s stated strategy is to lose the first four primary states, lose every state on Super Tuesday, then lose every state on March 5, then lose every state on March 8, and then finally win in Florida (where he's currently polling third, behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz). 

By March 15, 26 states or territories will have voted, and Rubio does not plan to win any of them.  Almost 50% of the delegates will have already been allocated; Rubio will win almost none, and then he’ll hope for resurrection in Florida.  That’s an even less plausible path to victory than Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “wait for Florida” strategy in 2008.

Rubio might argue that Bush leaving the race gives him both votes and resources.  But Rubio and his allies spent tens of millions in the first three states, with disappointing results.  And the small percentage of voters supporting Bush would not significantly change the dynamic of the race even if they all moved to Rubio—which they won’t.

Rubio is popular in the donor community and the DC lobbyist community, but there is no evidence that money is Rubio’s problem.

Rubio and his allies have already spent over $75 million with limited results.  He has not won a single state.
In contrast, Cruz and his allies have spent $15 million less, and despite being outspent, Cruz beat Rubio two out of three times winning first in Iowa (where Rubio was 3rd) and then finishing a strong third in New Hampshire (where Rubio was 5th), before effectively tying Rubio in South Carolina.
Even with a massive large-donor advantage, Rubio is seriously behind in fundraising.  As of December 31st, Cruz had nearly as much money in the bank as Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich combined.
In South Carolina, Rubio’s team repeatedly promised a win.  Their proclaimed strategy was “3-2-1” with 3rd in Iowa, 2nd in New Hampshire and 1st in South Carolina.  Everything lined up in their favor.  Much of their senior team is from South Carolina and has run South Carolina campaigns for decades.  They ran millions of dollars in ads attacking Cruz.  Rubio was endorsed by South Carolina’s very popular governor, senator, and congressman and yet, with the full support of the South Carolina establishment, he still couldn’t win, losing to Trump by ten points. 

If Rubio can’t win with all of the advantages and money in South Carolina, where can he win?

And here's what Kasich chief strategist John Weaver offered early this morning

Contrary to what his campaign is trying to portray, Senator Rubio just endured another disappointing performance despite being the highest spending candidate in Nevada.  He also missed an opportunity to back up the notion that he can bring new people into the Republican Party or succeed above expectations in a diverse state.

Republicans are now left to wonder whether investing in Marco Rubio is throwing good money after bad.

Of the four viable candidates left in the race, Senator Rubio spent the most in New Hampshire, spent the most in South Carolina and spent the most in Nevada.

The return has been dismal.

Rubio finished last out of the Final Four in New Hampshire (the lone state where all candidates competed), flushed away more than $12 million to pick up zero delegates in South Carolina, and appears likely to pick up no more than 7 more delegates than Governor Kasich in Nevada despite the fact that the Kasich campaign spent virtually no resources in the state and the Rubio campaign spent the most.

This primary has already proven that spending the most amount of money will not make you the nominee. Knowing the primary map will shift dramatically away from his campaign after March 5, Senator Rubio is spending money furiously now in a vain attempt to claim “momentum.” It isn’t going to work. Ultimately, all the Rubio strategy will produce is another case of donor’s remorse in a few weeks.

Patience is a virtue rarely found in politics, but it is one of the hallmarks of the Kasich campaign, and it will ultimately result in helping make Governor Kasich the Republican nominee. We continue to increase our financial and political support as more and more Republican leaders recognize the wisdom of our strategy and believe that Governor Kasich has the right combination of experience, authenticity and general election appeal to become President.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 11:40am]


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