MIAMI — Call me crazy, but I still think [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] can win Florida. I’m not predicting he will win, but I certainly think he can win—no matter what the polls say today.
As a sitting U.S. Senator, Rubio has the infrastructure to turn out the vote on Tuesday. One can imagine the Cuban-American community in South Florida will turn out—and Rubio’s recent victory in Puerto Rico probably portends well for his chances here.
What is more, in states where Rubio has campaigned hard, he has a tendency to finish strong (voters who decide late tend to break his way). And—don’t forget—there’s a debate in Miami on Thursday that could impact this race, as well.
Why is Florida so important? The best way to stop Donald Trump from garnering the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination is for Rubio to win the 99 delegates in Florida—and for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to win Ohio’s 66 delegates (both states are winner-take-all).
It is highly likely that if Trump wins both states, he will eventually clinch the nomination; if he loses both states, I suspect we will see an open convention. And if he wins one, but loses the other, then I think it’s a slog. (I’m not alone in concluding this.)
One of the things that could potentially mess this up is [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore], who seems to be more interested in vanquishing Rubio than in stopping Trump.
Cruz’s strategy doesn’t make sense to me. The two most likely scenarios for how this shakes out is a) Donald Trump wins, or b) there’s a contested convention. I would argue that Cruz has better odds of winning a contested convention than of winning 1,237 delegates. He may sincerely disagree with that calculation.
(An aside: Throughout this race, candidates have seemed to have an irrational interest in humiliating Rubio. We saw it when Chris Christie committed that “murder-suicide” in New Hampshire. I’m not sure why Cruz is doing this.)
Cruz contends he can win Florida, but that seems unlikely. More likely is that he could play spoiler. It’s unclear how Cruz’s decision to campaign here might factor into the voting (who knows, maybe he helps Rubio?), but if he helps Trump win those 99 delegates, I suspect he will later regret his decision to play in the Sunshine State.
Of course, there are other arguments. Some Trump critics worry that Rubio could suck votes from other candidates in other states by staying in the race through Florida. Along those lines, reports have surfaced suggesting that Rubio might suspend his campaign before Tuesday’s primary election. Some observers speculate that Rubio is already destined to lose Florida, and that he should get out now—to save face. After all, losing his home state would be humiliating. The theory is that Rubio could preserve his political future by avoiding a loss.
Don’t count on it. At this point in the game, when so many early votes have been cast, pulling out now would be seen as too cute by half. Winston Churchill once declared, “Nations that went down fighting rose again, but those who surrendered tamely were finished.” I suspect the same is true of political candidates.
Does it matter how a candidate goes out? It turns out, it matters a great deal.