The whole strategy to stop Donald Trump that is kicking about on the political side of the internet is based on Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich tag-teaming Trump to ensure he does not have enough delegates to win the nomination. I've been skeptical of this for some time because it requires Marco Rubio and John Kasich to get out of the race after winning their home states. I've never personally believed that quitting the race was in the interests of Rubio and Cruz, though it is a logical path for Kasich who is at the end of his career. The simple reason is that the American political system doesn't reward people who quit.
The other stumbling block has always been that it was hard to see Rubio following up winning Florida by going home. That calculus may have changed after the shellacking Rubio took this past Tuesday and regardless of how badly his staff wants
to keep drawing a paycheck Rubio to stay in the race, it seems that his donors are not that enthusiastic. Now Rubio might very well settle for suspending his campaign after Florida.
The first test of this will be next Tuesday. It seems like the Cruz super PAC community, if not the campaign itself, is taking the chance that assisting Rubio in winning Florida will not result in Rubio staying in the race, or that if he does stay in the will be fairly weak and not much of a threat in future primaries:
Super PACs backing Ted Cruz are scrapping a major media buy they once eyed in Florida because Marco Rubio is likely to lose there "all by himself," the group's leader says.
Keep the Promise, the main cluster of independent groups backing Cruz, is preparing to spend millions of dollars in a quartet of states that vote on March 15: Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina. It is passing entirely on Florida, Rubio's home state, where he badly trails national front-runner Donald Trump in polls.
"We're no longer doing anti-Rubio ads in Florida, because it appears he can lose Florida all by himself," said Kellyanne Conway, the group's president. "He doesn't need our help."
Only about $1 million has been bought so far. But the groups are planning to buy up to $3 million more of television in North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois, to add to the more than $535,000 on digital advertising spent in those states as well as Washington, D.C. and Ohio, and the $435,000 on radio in North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. Republicans in D.C. vote on March 12.
Erick Erickson has more at The Resurgent:
Cruz’s campaign, after a lot of bluster about going all in in Florida admits it was all a head fake. They had one event scheduled for today with Sean Hannity in Orlando that was previously scheduled and will be nationally focused, not Florida focused. Then Cruz is bailing on Florida. For the Rubio folks complaining, I’m told the campaign did try to make adjustments, but couldn’t for reasons not in the campaign’s control.
Cruz’s campaign takes down its Florida ads. The Cruz Super PACs follow suit.
Given the horrible accuracy of polls this cycle we don't really know what this means. We can guess that Trump is at least five points weaker than the polling indicates, unfortunately, Rubio also has a history of underperforming at the ballot box.
The strategy seems to be one of "sink or swim." If Rubio wins Florida it cripples Trump and Rubio is either out of the race on Wednesday or he is no longer a top tier candidate. If Trump wins, no one can blame the Cruz campaign for torpedoing him and the pressure on him to get out of the race becomes irresistible.