Starting with Iowa, here’s Marco Rubio’s performance this primary season. Super Tuesday states listed alphabetically: 3-5-2-2-3-3-3-2-3-1-3-3-3-3-2. Let’s compare that to Trump’s record: 2-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-3-2-1-2-1-1.
Rubio won one state (Minnesota) and failed to cross the 20% threshold required to acquire delegates in several others. He is still the establishment’s best chance at weaseling a candidate into the nomination, though only by default, because the only other establishment candidate left is Kasich, and he tanked. But Rubio being the only establishment candidate also assumes Republicans still despise Cruz enough that they wouldn’t want to rally behind him, and if Rubio’s dismal performance thus far is any indication, they might not have a choice. Even Lindsey Graham is resigning himself to the idea.
Still, there are those still hopeful that Marco can do it, like the neocon bible Weekly Standard:
But there were bright spots for Rubio, the most obvious being his victory in Minnesota, where he not only beat Trump for the first time but did so by more than 15 points and relegated the Donald to third place behind Cruz. As the upcoming primary contests shift to the Midwest, where Trump has performed the worst so far, Minnesota’s results might bode well for Rubio in states like Michigan (March 8) and Wisconsin (April 5).
Except all the polling in Michigan and Wisconsin shows Rubio losing by a lot. The most generous is the most recent poll in Michigan by MRG (which also has the smallest sample size), and even there Rubio loses to Trump 33-18. (Other polls, like this one from Fox 2 and Target Insyght, put Trump at 41 and Rubio at 19 and 17, respectively). In Wisconsin, Marquette is the only firm to do any recent polling, and they have Trump over Rubio 30-20 (though it should be noted they have a rather high MoE). Not to mention that we’re now less than two weeks away from the Florida primary, and so far Rubio’s primed to lose his home state—a winner-take-all situation—to Trump by an embarrassing margin. Rubio even loses in a head-to-head with Clinton, whereas Trump comes out on top by two points.
But the neocons want to spin it positively:
He also overperformed his position in the polls in several states, including in Virginia (10 points better than the RealClearPolitics average of polls), Minnesota (13 points better than the only recent poll there), and Oklahoma (5 points better than the RCP average). Exit polls showed in Virginia and Georgiathat Rubio won among those who decided in “the last few days” or in “the last week”—precisely when Rubio began taking on Trump directly and more bluntly than before. That suggests Rubio’s strategy,derided by many in the media, may be working to expose Trump’s liabilities and peel away fence sitters considering him.
You see that? He overperformed in certain states because he did better than the polls said he would, even though he still lost! Which means even his poor showing across the board was better than the even lower expectations! Losing is the new winning!
Rubio whines that Kasich being in the race splits the vote, and there’s validity to that. But he doesn’t realize that being in the race himself splits the vote between him and Cruz, who right now is the only one poised to take down Trump. But since Rubio represents the last great hope of the GOP, and since Cruz has no reason to drop after winning his home state and two more, we can expect this thing to just keep on rolling. Republican voters anxious about a Trump nomination don’t appear to have been voting strategically up until this point, and I don’t think that’s about to change.