Election 2020

How the Rubio Camp Sees a Path to the Nomination from Here

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks at a rally Feb. 21, 2016, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) campaign said in a Sunday memo on his campaign stratgegy that his second-place finish in South Carolina underscores his “ability to mount a comeback in a crunch.”

Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan stressed that only 4 percent of delegates have been awarded to date and they believe “we stand to benefit from a conservative movement and party coalescing around Marco’s candidacy like we saw in South Carolina.”

The campaign analysis comes as Nevada’s GOP senator, Dean Heller, and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) endorsed Rubio.

“As I’ve said repeatedly for months now, this is going to be a long delegate fight and we have a candidate and a campaign built to prevail,” Sullivan said, proceeding to detail key takeaways from Saturday’s primary contest.

“As the field consolidates, polls have shown that Marco benefits the most. We have always been the candidate with the most room to grow, unlike Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. He is consistently the second choice of voters who support other candidates and has the highest favorability of anyone in the race,” the campaign manager said, echoing Rubio’s contention that this is now a three-man race.

He said Rubio weathered “a wave of dirty tricks” in South Carolina to come in second and won with voters who prefer a president with political experience, according to exit polls.

Sullivan said the campaign utilized a “strong ground game” in South Carolina but “seldom talked about it.”

“Unlike other campaigns, our field organization is built for success in all 50 states, not just one or two,” he added. “For those who said winning in November was their top candidate quality, Marco won with 49 percent.”

Sullivan then targeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), noting that if Cruz can’t win a state with 73 percent evangelical primary voters despite making 50,000 calls per day and knocking on 7,000 doors daily “where else can he win?”

“As we saw in South Carolina, Senator Cruz’s willingness to say or do anything in order to win an election does not wear well on voters,” he said, arguing that the exit poll showing 32 percent thought Cruz ran the most “unfair campaign” has “left him with permanent damage.”

“One of the more problematic upshots of the past ten days for Cruz could be that it has crystallized a new line of attack that will continue to dog him as he moves on: the perception that he is a ‘liar’ campaigning on a dishonest premise.”

The campaign manager declared that Donald Trump’s “electoral ceiling is in the mid 30s.”

“He has the highest negatives of any candidate by far and the most voters who say they would refuse to vote for him. Simply put, Donald Trump can never get to 50 percent and only will continue as a frontrunner as long as the field is crowded,” he said.

With that in mind, and with Jeb Bush out of the race but Ohio Gov. John Kasich in for the long haul, Sullivan’s last takeaway was reserved for Saturday night’s fifth-place finisher.

“The process for awarding delegates in March states shows that Marco is positioned to end the month with a solid delegate count, while the path for winning the nomination for John Kasich looks unrealistic given the threshold requirements in most states,” said Sullivan. “With the current state of the race, Kasich is currently not in contention for 81.7 percent of the delegates awarded during the week of March 1st. He hasn’t shown any ability to appeal to voters outside the very small moderate/liberal subset of the Republican primary electorate.”

Rubio made campaign stops today in Tennessee, where Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA,” and Arkansas on the way to Nevada. He’ll be joined at the Las Vegas rally by Pawn Stars shop owner Rick Harrison, singer and actor Donnie Wahlberg, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Heller.

“Even though we do not see eye to eye on every issue, I know that Marco is a man of principle who can be trusted to keep us safe and give each and every one of us a shot at the American Dream,” said Wahlberg, an original member of boy band New Kids on the Block who stars on CBS’ Blue Bloods, in a statement released by the campaign. “Marco is a humble man who has not forgotten his roots, and he will fight to make sure that where you come from does not determine how far you can go.”

On Tuesday, Rubio heads to Minneapolis and Michigan — Midwest territory where Kasich thinks he can make up lost ground and net the nomination.

Rubio told NBC’s Meet the Press this morning that he sees the race in positive light still because “about 70 percent of Republicans around the country have said we want someone other than Donald Trump to be our nominee.”

“All of these states award delegates differently, so we have a different strategy for each of these states, depending on how they award delegates,” Rubio said. “When we get into the winner-take-all states in the middle of March, Ohio, Florida, big chunks of delegates, that’s where you really need to begin to win states. And I feel very good about where we’re going to be by then.”