Marco Rubio has always been a long shot to win his home state of Florida. Not a single poll there since last July has shown the Florida senator overtaking GOP front runner Donald Trump. However, while Trump appears certain to win Tuesday’s primary, it seems to be Sen. Ted Cruz who is serving up the deathblow.
Going into the Florida primary, Cruz, the number two candidate in the GOP campaign, could have approached the race in two very different ways. He could have sat back, stayed out of the state and perhaps let Rubio pull off a win by leveraging Cruz's leftover voter base. Then the two could have gone on and duked it out over the next few weeks with Trump holding far fewer delegates.
Or, Cruz could continue to campaign in Florida, denying Rubio potential access to a new crop of followers, and instead help hand the state directly to Trump.
So far it’s clear that he has chosen the latter.
“Ted Cruz is not trying to win Florida, he’s trying to knee-cap Rubio so he can get it down to a three-person race. Ideally he wants to get it down to a two-person race,” said Ford O’Connell, former adviser to John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “Asking politicians to put the team ahead of their own personal self-interest is like asking a thief to stop stealing—he’s looking at it as protecting Ted Cruz—because he’s thinking that, ‘If we go to a contested convention, I won’t come out on top.’”
While Rubio has a long history in the state, having started there as a member of the Florida House and moved up the ranks to senator, Cruz has more of a defined voter base that comes out to support him in every state.
“Rubio has no base to fall back on,” O’Connell said. “Trump has wiped every base of voters. Cruz has a mixture of the tea party constitutionalists and hardcore conservatives. Who does Rubio have? Establishments? Establishment is the big word of 2016, but no one can define it.”