Saturday’s primary wins by Cruz came as a surprise to most people, who thought it was Rubio territory, AND Trump had looked good in the polls. But was it really a surprise?
On February 10, the New York Times did a very nice analysis of how the three candidates might find their path to the White House.
As it turns out, the theory was that Cruz would have to win early, counting heavily on the South, while Rubio would not gain momentum till the end.
Cruz was expected to win Iowa (which he sort-of did). He also met expectations by taking Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas (well, duh), and Kansas. He exceeded expectations by taking Maine. HOWEVER, his map also included these states he needed to win—but didn’t: South Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Alabama.
When viewed through that prism, Cruz’ big surprise in the small state of Maine pales.
Meanwhile, is Rubio really “losing” so badly?
Rubio did win Minnesota, part of his plan. But he “should have” won New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, and Maine.
So—to beat Trump, according to the paths in the map, Cruz lost SIX states he needed, while Rubio only lost FIVE states that he needed—because Rubio is expected to be strong in the big states, such as New York, plus California and New Jersey, which are right at the end.
Where does this leave us?
The Cruz map shows him needing the coming week states of Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Missouri. Rubio needs Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.
RealClearPolitics gives us a rundown on state polls.
Mississippi—Trump, up by 12 points
North Carolina—Trump, up by 10 points
Florida—Trump, up by 18 points
Ohio—Trump, up by 5 points
Missouri—Trump, up by 12 points
Michigan—Trump, up by 17 points
Illinois—Trump, up by 15 points
As we said elsewhere, much of Trump’s image is that of a “winner,” just as Jeb Bush’s image was “inevitable.” If Trump takes most of these states, it will help push him forward. However, even though Cruz and Rubio “need” these states, if they lose them, they will not be seen as “losers,” since they are both “Hail Mary” candidates, meaning that it will be a surprise if they turn things around.
That’s according to the polls. How about the gamblers? How “likely” will they win? Election Betting Odds gives us a few of the states:
Florida—Trump, up by 58 points
Ohio—Kasich, up by 22 points
Michigan—Trump, up by 45 points
The bottom line is, for all of Cruz’ bluster and bravada, he has not won five states he needed, and doesn’t look like a winner in near-term states.
ONE LAST POINT: Cruz has been painting Rubio as a loser who should get out of the race. AND Trump asked him to get out Saturday night, too. The reason for this is that Cruz thinks he’ll get Rubio’s people AND Trump sees Rubio as his real competition in the biggest prize states—New York and California.
There are always strategic (aka, ulterior) motives for every political announcement. Now you know why Cruz and Trump both want Rubio gone.