Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz need to make serious inroads into Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s huge lead in today’s Nevada GOP caucuses or risk getting steamrolled by the brash billionaire come Super Tuesday, party strategists say.
Rubio and Cruz came in second and third in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, separated by a small fraction of a percentage point.
Now that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has suspended his campaign, Rubio is widely expected to earn the designation as the party’s establishment candidate if he can pull out from the pack in Nevada, which includes Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a centrist.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said both Rubio and Cruz need a clear stand-alone second-place finish in Nevada.
“(Rubio) needs to solidify in the donors’ minds that he is their only ticket to stop Trump,” O’Connell said. “And for Cruz it would be a very bad sign to finish third. ... If he comes off two subpar showings in South Carolina and Nevada it’s not going to look real good heading into Super Tuesday.”
Both candidates, O’Connell said, will be hoping a strong showing today will help fill their campaign war chests and trigger a raft of key national endorsements.
“No one anticipated the hurricane known as Donald Trump coming through, but now they’ve got to figure out how to stop the bleeding,” O’Connell said of the GOP establishment.
“They should’ve been badgering him from the beginning but they’ve let him go scot-free,” he said, “and now he’s gained so much momentum that they don’t know how to stop him.”