Donald Trump’s victory in Nevada adds a firm aura of inevitability to his campaign to become the Republican nominee. His strong polling in the Super Tuesday state increases pressure on the Republican Party establishment to unite to stop Trump’s momentum.
The establishment consensus is that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the preferred candidate to take on Trump for the Republican nomination. This is an uphill battle in itself given, Rubio is yet to win a primary. To take a shot at the Donald, Rubio has to take out the other contender in this race, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz has been a consistent critic of Rubio, accusing him of not being a real conservative and being too close to ‘the establishment’.
Rubio’s key problem here is how to take down Cruz without Cruz dealing severe damage to Rubio’s campaign. Given Cruz’s curated status as the anti-Washington outsider, the anti-Rubio, it is hard to imagine Cruz gracefully stepping aside for Rubio. This is especially true when we consider that Cruz has twice as much money on hand as Rubio, is currently polling ahead of him in Rubio’s home state of Florida, and has out raised him in the states that will vote on Super Tuesday. Harder to imagine still, is Cruz endorsing his rival. Cruz’s endorsement is critical in order to send his supporters Rubio’s way; else, they are vulnerable to Trump.
Rubio may be gaining momentum with the sudden flurry of high-level endorsements in the aftermath of Jeb Bush’s departure, but he is still time, and victory, poor. Trump’s commanding victory in Nevada further reduces the amount of time Rubio has to make inroads into Trump’s support. Post-Super Tuesday, it will be nigh on impossible for Rubio to position himself as the establishment choice if he is unable to win a single primary.
The persistence of Governor John Kasich in the Republican race is also a drag on Rubio’s support. Kasich seems determined to remain in the race until the Michigan Primary on March 8, depriving Rubio of the crucial moderate votes he needs to forge the ‘Reagan Coalition’.
If Trump were any other candidate, his three wins-in-a-row in three states with vastly different demographics would be enough to confirm his position as the Republican nominee. Rubio is under pressure to match up his rhetoric with his record, and all the while Trump marches on.
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