Marco Rubio’s path to the Republican nomination short of a contested convention has narrowed to nearly nothing as his campaign and allies reboot their strategy to prepare for months of guerrilla warfare to deny Donald Trump a clean, pre-convention victory.
The math for Rubio is daunting. After getting thoroughly routed on Super Tuesday, Rubio is in so deep a delegate hole that he would now need to win roughly two-thirds of all the remaining delegates to guarantee his nomination ahead of Cleveland, according to a POLITICO analysis.
That is an enormously difficult, if not impossible, climb for a candidate who has so far won only a single state, Minnesota, and especially one who is not predicting victory in any of the next dozen states and territories that cast ballots, until his home state of Florida votes on March 15.
“It’s fair to say that Rubio’s path to 1,237 is shot,” Dave Wasserman, an analyst with the Cook Political Report who closely tracks the delegate race, said of the threshold to secure the nomination. “There’s virtually no chance for Marco Rubio to get to a majority prior to the convention,” said John Yob, who served as a top delegate strategist for Rick Santorum in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.
So what happens next? Should Rubio somehow manage to win Florida — not looking likely at this moment — he’ll probably continue with his vanity candidacy. And there is little likelihood of a Cruz-Rubio ticket in the offing. So his only dog-in-the-manger strategy now is to deny Trump enough delegates during the remaining primaries in the hopes of throwing the nomination into the convention.
Yob, who served as Rand Paul’s political director this cycle and who opposes Rubio, criticized the Florida senator for his private focus on forcing a convention while still claiming publicly he’s still trying to win outright.
“He’s essentially a con artist who is convincing voters and donors to support him so he can win some delegates proportionally so that he can win a multi-ballot brokered convention,” Yob said, using Rubio’s anti-Trump line against him.
For Rubio, the tactical shift puts him in line with the outside groups that have sprouted up to stop Trump. On Thursday, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney delivered an impassioned and unusual speech in which he called Trump a “fraud” and “phony” and urged a united anyone-but-Trump effort.
“Our whole strategy has always been to deny him 50 percent,” said Katie Packer, who served as Romney’s deputy campaign manager and is the founder of Our Priorities PAC, which is spending millions on anti-Trump ads. “I’m expecting and prepared to take this fight all the way to Cleveland.”
What a guy.