Even though they fall relatively early in the primary calendar, this is the most the Nevada caucuses have probably ever mattered in the GOP primary. Right now, the balance of power in the nominating process hangs by an absolute thread. Cruz and Rubio have engaged in an endless (and apparently cyclical) fight to steal momentum from one another in every contest so far.
Right now, Rubio has the edge in the fight for perception about who is most capable of taking out Trump. That perception is vitally important in a field where a huge chunk of votes remains undecided and “being able to stop Trump” is the number one job qualification for applicants. Cruz is trying desperately to steal that momentum back, and Nevada presents him with an excellent opportunity to do so on Rubio’s home turf.
We should be absolutely blunt here. Kasich and Carson are hanging around for ego-related reasons and apparently nothing will stop them from continuing their pointless campaigns that serve only to elevate Trump. Super Tuesday can and must eliminate one or the other of Cruz and Rubio from contention or this thing is all over. The overwhelming likelihood is that Trump is going to walk away with the lion’s share of the delegates on Super Tuesday. Someone else can recover and beat Trump, but only if the field narrows immediately afterwards.
The stakes are especially high for Cruz, for whom the deeply evangelical South – the bread and butter of his voting base – makes up a huge portion of Super Tuesday votes. If he loses to Rubio in these states – even by close margins – the calls for him to exit the race will be nearly deafening, because there simply will be no viable pathway to the nomination going forward. But the stakes for the Rubio campaign are equally high because if Rubio cannot at least equal Cruz on Super Tuesday, then a clear third place finish will likely spell the end of his chances, as well.
There are two events that will set the tone for Super Tuesday and decide the vitally important “momentum” question going into Super Tuesday. The first is today’s Nevada Caucuses. We likely won’t know the winner of those until very late in the night, but rest assured that if you are subscribed to the RedState Morning Briefing, the first email in your inbox will have a complete breakdown of the results. The second will be the debate on Thursday. These are the last two chances both Rubio and Cruz will have to make their pitch to the voters on electability, ideology, and strategy going forward.
Never before has so much been riding on the Nevada caucuses.