It is time for those of us who thought Marco Rubio had a shot at being an ‘establishment’ contender against Donald Trump to admit we were very wrong.
After yesterday’s losses, Rubio’s campaign has completely lost the ability to convincingly argue this line against Trump, as well as against Ted Cruz.
Oddly enough, Cruz is pretty much the only hope for anti-Trump Republicans to coalesce around, as it is inconceivable that John Kasich -- who is currently trailing Donald Trump by 6 percent in his home state of Ohio and who trails even Rubio in delegates -- is going to emerge as the “establishment pick.”
But at least Kasich has always been somewhat of an underdog in this race, while Rubio has routinely held what could be described as victory rallies in states where he came in third place.
The evidence is now clear: The ‘momentum’ Rubio’s team was claiming would propel them into the Number #2 spot against Trump has been a mirage, and it’s time for Rubio to drop out. Winning Minnesota and Puerto Rico will not be nearly enough to contend against either Trump or Cruz.
The candidate is said to be ‘bullish’ on his chances of winning his home state of Florida, even though some advisers have been privately urging him to drop out before then, according to CNN. Two recent polls from Monmouth and Quinnipiac have Rubio losing to Trump by 8 percent and 16 percent, respectively, which suggests Rubio’s advisers may have the right idea.
As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver notes, Rubio was always the second or third choice for most Republican voters and attempted to be too many things to too many people. He tried to appeal to religious conservatives, establishment Republicans, and swing voters all at once to little avail.
In addition, instead of developing a strong ground game -- as one expects a so-called “Republican Obama” would have put time into -- Rubio’s campaign plowed money into commercials in the hopes of reaching larger audiences. Donald Trump hasn’t put much money into a ground operation either, but he has name and ‘brand’ recognition built up over the years which Rubio does not have, and which has contributed to the billionaire’s political success thus far.
As Silver highlights, Rubio’s main ‘base’ -- if he could be said to have one -- consists mostly of affluent suburban voters in the middle of the political spectrum, many of whom left the Republican Party long ago. And this perception certainly did not help him very much with the various groups within the Republican base that Rubio was also trying to appeal to.
Rubio currently looks poised to lose Florida. If he does, it could be heralded as the end of his political career -- something John Kasich (who is up for reelection in 2018) might also want to consider.
If the objective is truly to stop Trump and to coalesce behind one candidate who can challenge him, if not outright beat him, Rubio (and Kasich) should drop out and endorse Cruz. It may be against their instincts and the party may hate Cruz, but no other candidate has proven able to seriously challenge Trump during this primary season.