I mentioned Rubio’s difficulties in Florida earlier this week, but they may be even worse than the polls suggest. As it has done in so many other states, the Rubio campaign has neglected doing basic organizational work and has now run out of time to build the organization it absolutely has to have:
According to Republican consultants and political observers from Tallahassee to Orlando to Tampa to Miami, there’s virtually no evidence that Rubio has the robust campaign in place that’s needed to shrink — let alone overcome — Trump’s lead [bold mine-DL], which ranges from 7 to 20 percentage points, depending on the poll. For weeks, his team hasn’t blanketed known early voters with mail, and they weren’t calling Republicans statewide until just a few days ago.
The Rubio campaign has assumed that because this is an “unconventional” election cycle that it can get away with neglecting the normal requirements of a competitive campaign, but its lack of success in almost every state that has voted so far shows that this was wrong. Counting on the same “unconventional” approach to save the day for them in the state they absolutely cannot afford to lose seems certain to produce another disappointing result.
To make matters worse for the senator, Cruz has decided to dedicate more resources to the state with the goal of ending Rubio’s campaign:
Cruz’s campaign announced Friday that it is opening 10 field offices in Florida, which holds a Republican primary March 15. Trump has a big lead in the polls there, but Cruz’s campaign thinks it can increase its support in the state by appealing to conservatives and positioning the candidate as an alternative to Trump.
The consolation for Rubio here is that Cruz is not popular among Florida Republicans, and he has the worst unfavorability rating of any of the candidates still in the race (38% favorable/48% unfavorable). Cruz trails Rubio by 14 points in the RCP average, so it is unlikely that Cruz would be able to do well enough to push Rubio back into third place. Nonetheless, Cruz’s determination to do creates yet another problem for a Rubio campaign that already has far too many. Cruz’s moves in Florida also reflect his disdain for the contested convention option that Kasich and Rubio are now counting on to block Trump. The party leaders’ efforts to erect an anti-Trump cordon sanitaire are failing, and Cruz’s refusal to cooperate in Florida is one reason why.