It is less than a month before the New Hampshire primary, where Cruz hopes to be able to knock Rubio out of the race:
“I don’t know where anywhere else Kasich is going to do well. I think Christie has a short half-life,” said former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, a Cruz co-chairman here. “Rubio, on the other hand, could stay around for a while — but I don’t think he’s going to.”
Some of Rubio’s top supporters acknowledge the Florida senator needs to win the establishment free-for-all here.
“Christie and Kasich have no national organization,” said Cliff Hurst, Rubio’s co-chairman in New Hampshire. “It’ll be Cruz and Trump if they eliminate Rubio.”
New Hampshire polling indicates that Rubio still hasn’t improved his position, and it is possible that he has already hit the ceiling of his support. Both Kasich and Cruz have caught up to him and could end up finishing ahead of him. All three are practically tied in the RCP average, but Rubio seems to have stalled while the other two continue to gain. Cruz can expect to get a boost from a strong showing in Iowa and Kasich’s entire campaign depends on doing reasonably well in New Hampshire, so they will probably be able to increase their support over the next month. Rubio’s anemic campaign organization puts him at risk of falling short of his tepid poll numbers, and that means that he could even fall behind Christie or Bush in the first primary.
A fourth-place finish would be harmful to Rubio’s campaign, but not necessarily fatal. Obviously, finishing in fifth or worse would be calamitous, and it would probably lead to another underwhelming result in South Carolina, where some polls show that Bush has already caught up to Rubio. By the end of February, we might very well be looking at what would effectively be a two-man race for the Republican nomination with a few hangers-on that can’t win anywhere. The interesting question at that point would be: which of the two do the “establishment” candidates’ voters support when it becomes clear that none of their candidates can win?