Ford O'Connell, Republican strategist and advisor to the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign, says Rubio is poised to become the new establishment favorite for the Republican nomination but that moment may not come until Super Tuesday on March 1.
“If Marco Rubio won Nevada it would be an earth-shattering moment in the race. I think right now what Rubio needs to do is to make sure he comes in second to keep that momentum going. There are not enough votes out there to be number one so GOP candidates are trying for number two,” said O’Connell.
He says with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush out of the running, Rubio stands to inherit his donors and endorsements because he is seen as the “mainstream candidate with the best chance to win” in the general election. Voters coalescing around the Florida senator could help narrow the field but other candidates need to make way for him first.
“As long as you got Kasich eating a few of the votes, Carson and Cruz eating a few more, it is very hard to see how you could overcome Trump. If Cruz bows out those voters could be split between Trump and Rubio, that is why Trump is hammering Cruz all day long and not Rubio,” said O’Connell.
He says as long as the Republican field stays wide, Trump will continue to be the beneficiary of votes and eventually become the “winner take all.”
“If it narrows to a two-person race between Rubio and Trump before March 15, then Rubio’s chances are very good because he is the most electable against Hillary Clinton,” said O’Connell.