- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Rubio the Spoiler

Nineteen states have now voted. Here are Marco Rubio’s vote percentages and ranking in each:

  Percent of vote
New Hampshire
South Carolina


This is not the performance of a candidate with a future.

Rubio did worse in Maine than he did in New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts. He did worse in Kentucky than he did in Arkansas or Tennessee. He did worse in Louisiana than he did in South Carolina or Alabama. He did worse in Kansas than he did in Iowa or Oklahoma. And he did worse even though the field has narrowed over the course of those contests, leaving him the default candidate to consolidate the “establishment” vote.

And Rubio is making no claims that he will do well in the next four states to vote on Wednesday. As well he shouldn’t. I don’t know how anyone knows how Hawaii will vote, but Idaho seems like prime Cruz country, and based on Rubio’s dismal performance in Louisiana, one would expect him to perform equally badly in Mississippi, perhaps badly enough to be shut out of delegates entirely.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, there have been five polls since Super Tuesday:

ARG 3/4-3/5
CBS/YouGov 3/2-3/4
Trafalgar 3/2-3/3
NBC/WSJ 3/1-3/3
Fox 2 Detroit/Mitchell 3/2-3/2


The most recent poll from ARG is clearly an outlier, but Rubio’s numbers don’t look much better without it. And after yesterday, it’s likely that Cruz’s numbers will improve. It’s very hard to imagine Rubio’s will. Michigan is another state where Rubio may not even clear the threshold to receive delegates.

Then, on March 15th come Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio – and Florida.

How’s Rubio polling in those states?

Illinois was polled twice in February. In one, Rubio was in third place with 14%; in the other, he was in second place with 21%. This is unquestionably Rubio’s best shot in the Midwest, but it’s hard to imagine his standing has improved much in the wake of his string of losses on Super Tuesday and since.

Missouri has not been polled. But Cruz won neighboring Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma, while coming in a strong second in neighboring Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Trump won Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, and came in second in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. It would be genuinely shocking if Rubio did better than a weak third in Missouri; the question is whether the state goes to Trump or Cruz.

North Carolina has been polled four times since January. Rubio polled third in all four polls, behind Trump and Cruz. None of those polls were taken in March, since Cruz’s and Trump’s multiple wins and Rubio’s multiple failures to win. I would assume again that Rubio will place a distant third.

Ohio was polled once in February. Rubio placed a distant fourth.

And then there’s Florida. Florida has been polled six times this year. Rubio has never led. In the most recent February polls, he has trailed Trump by between 15 and 20 points. Florida was also polled 21 times in 2015. Rubio never led in any of those polls either. Rubio is significantly less-popular in his home state that Cruz is in his, or Kasich is in his – or, I’d venture, than Trump is in his. Rubio best chance of winning his home state is that Cruz’s efforts to out-hustle him [1] boost the Texan’s standing at the expense of Trump rather than Rubio, and enable the Florida Senator to win a close three-way race. Otherwise, he’s probably toast.

Rubio is counting on Florida to revive his campaign. But the state is not just his only real shot at a major win. It’s his only good shot at placing second. Which, in winner-take-all Florida, is worth a total of zero delegates.

“Spoiler” is the right word for Rubio’s campaign at this point. If the GOP establishment really wanted to stop Trump, they would pressure Rubio to drop out right now. His departure might put Cruz (or possibly Kasich) over the top in Michigan. It would certainly remove a key obstacle to a Cruz upset in Mississippi. Then, on March 15th, it would likely put Kasich over the top in Ohio, and possibly put Illinois into contention as well, and would very likely put Cruz over the top in Missouri and North Carolina. Losing Florida to Trump would be a small price to pay for such a thorough repudiation of the New York mogul in the other major states in play.

By contrast, if he stays in, Rubio will likely pull enough votes from Cruz to hand Trump a win in Mississippi, and enough from Cruz and Kasich to keep Trump on top in Michigan. That would set Trump up to possibly squeak out a win over Kasich in Ohio, and over Cruz in North Carolina and Missouri. And then Rubio will likely lose Florida anyway.

But the GOP establishment doesn’t really want to stop Trump. What they want is to back the candidate of their choosing, someone they know will be reliable on the issues that matter most to them, and who they also believe they can sell. They have made excuses at every twist and turn of this campaign in terms of how different things would have been if just one little thing had gone differently – and bewailed the good electoral fortune showered on candidates whom they cannot abide. But they cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that it’s not bad luck. The primary electorate really, really doesn’t want to vote for someone the party leadership has blessed. Frankly, they’d prefer someone completely unacceptable to that leadership.

After all, those unacceptable, uncontrollable, unaccountable candidates – Trump and Cruz – have between them won an outright majority of the vote, and sometimes an overwhelming majority, in every single primary and caucus so far, save two: New Hampshire and Vermont. Which happen to be two of the three states where Marco Rubio came in behind even poor John Kasich. Their joint share of the vote has increased as the campaign has gone on. They even jointly won a majority in Minnesota, the only state little Marco has managed to win so far.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no anti-Trump majority to consolidate. There is an anti-establishment majority. And the only question has been which candidate, if any, will consolidate it.

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "Rubio the Spoiler"

#1 Comment By Kieselguhr Kid On March 6, 2016 @ 12:03 pm

Look, I’m generally left of center so maybe I don’t count, but, I’d _far, far_ rather risk a President Trump than a President Cruz. Trump seems like a buffoon, but Cruz seems purely evil. Moreover I would think Republicans would prefer Trump too: a Trump nom. forces them to confront the gap between the party elites and the party, whereas Cruz wants them to believe in the face of all evidence that there’s a ton of evangelical voters sitting out elections, there for the taking, and those voters would rather burn everything down than not get their way. A Republican party helmed by Trump is an ill party, but one helmed by Cruz is nearly dead, and the party’s actions are consistent with that awareness.

#2 Comment By Dan On March 6, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

It without a doubt looks like its between Trump and Cruz.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Rubio drops out before 3/15 to spare him the embarrassment of being walloped in his home state.

The real story is Trump’s KKK flop and debate tag team. The KKK flop was the last straw with the liberal/global media and they have set out to destroy him. It’s done significant damage and he hasn’t recovered yet. The moderates and Reagan Democrats were flocking to Trump due to his anti-globalist rhetoric. But that has turned into a trickle.

It would be a miracle of epic proportions if Trump gets the momentum back he once had.

The debate was also poor. I could definitely see hard right Republicans preferring Cruz.

Trump University- not good for Trump, Rubio scored by pointing out that Trump was saying the same lofty rhetoric about Trump U than he was about the country.

Trump hands/male size – Another avenue of ridicule. Another example of not being Presidential. Not nearly as bad as the KKK thing. And more proof that he’s going to say dumb things here and there.

Trump – Flexible. Saying he will be flexible and working with the Dems is a point for the moderates, a point against for hard-core republicans

Trump – Russia. Saying he wants to get along with Russia was much better than Kasich’s promise to be more aggressive towards Russia. Trump scored a point with me here.

Overall there was more in the debate that hurt than helped Trump in a Republican primary. The KKK flop hurt him significantly with the moderates and destroyed his momentum. The last debate hurt him the hard right.

It’s going to be an interesting next couple months.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 6, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

Talking about concise! Noah, you’ve told the whole story in just 66 words! The whole story:

“What [the GOP establishment] want is to back the candidate of THEIR CHOOSING, someone they know will be reliable on the issues that matter most to them, and who they also believe they can sell…I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no anti-Trump majority to consolidate. There is an anti-ESTABLISHMENT majority. And the only question has been which candidate, if any, will consolidate it.”

#4 Comment By Decency Refugees On March 6, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

“There is an anti-establishment majority. “

This is good analysis. It has been clear for months that Trump and Cruz have been splitting that vote.

While it’s hard to say exactly how many, there are probably even more basically anti-establishment voters who have been supporting establishment candidates only because of the repulsive personal qualities of Messrs. Trump and Cruz.

Rubio didn’t register the extent to which he benefited from this. After going low and dirty these past few weeks he lost the “personal decency” refugees who had been lodging with him, and his numbers have dropped – helping Trump yet again.

#5 Comment By Jabbermarco On March 6, 2016 @ 1:32 pm

O frabjous day! Calooh! Callay! Rubio, the most rabidly interventionist Netanyahu worshipper of the establishment-owned, neocon-advised candidates … now “running on fumes” (per The Economist, which dearly loved him)!

#6 Comment By William Burns On March 6, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

Minnesota, the only state Rubio has won, is also the only state never to have voted for Ronald Reagan. Why does Rubio hate Ronald Reagan?

#7 Comment By John H On March 6, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

This is a smart piece, making reasonable points. Why the hell (other than personal animus) did you refer to Rubio as “Little Marco”? Be better than Trump. Is that too much to ask?

#8 Comment By MikeCLT On March 6, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

I agree with John H. You shouldn’t refer to Rubio as little Marco. You should call him The Flamingo Kid.

#9 Comment By Rossbach On March 6, 2016 @ 7:34 pm

“The KKK flop was the last straw…”

The Communist Party has routinely endorsed Democratic Party candidates since 1988. When will the MSM ask Hillary and Bernie to repudiate their support? Or is Trump the only one to be held that standard?

#10 Comment By Profligacy On March 6, 2016 @ 9:30 pm

He can’t win, but he can sure blow through a lot of money while losing:


In the run-up to Super Tuesday he outspent all other candidates combined. For mostly third and fourth place showings.

#11 Comment By bacon On March 7, 2016 @ 12:28 am

I made this comment earlier on a Daniel Larison post, but here it is again. Rubio has a troubled financial history. He has been pulled from the brink by a ridiculous payment for an autobiography and supported by billionaires who think he is their guy, a fresh face with a good public presence who can get elected president and then do their bidding. OK, standard US politics, but as voters continue to reject him, what if the billionaires decide he isn’t their guy after all? He seems to have no useful skills. Are we going to see a presidential candidate living in his pickup truck?

#12 Comment By jk On March 7, 2016 @ 5:05 am

One would think Megan Kelley and Fox News are trying to run a campaign also.

Though I think the canny transition to the amazingly unscripted, off-the-cuff, PowerPoint only helps the Donald vs. MSM/Neocons narrative that he is trying to project.

From the hilarious (karmic full circle!) Baghdad Bob rationalizations of Prince Reince of the state of the GOP, to the desperate reincarnation of Romney, the GOP deserves the middle finger vote of the Donald at this point only to put it down out of its misery – die with dignity already.

#13 Comment By jk On March 7, 2016 @ 5:13 am

bacon: Rubio has guaranteed lifetime welfare and retirement checks coming from the State of FL and the US govt. His loss to the GOP is his personal win. If Fox does not fire Huckabee and he can’t get a slot there, there are other places he can sell his snake oil like [3] at Real Estate conventions

Rubio is the epitome of the no skin in game charlatan. Always has great ideas as long as he is not personally invested in it.

Someone who supports Supply Side and perpetual war for perpetual peace without risking himself or his kin physically or financially for these causes he “believes in” but is of course insulated from.

#14 Comment By AlbertJ On March 7, 2016 @ 10:50 am

This candidate should pull out, that candidate should pull out….why shouldn’t people in all 50 states get to put their two cents worth in the primaries? Iowa and New Hampshire are not the only two states where people pay taxes and serve in the military.

#15 Comment By Props On March 7, 2016 @ 11:03 am

“he outspent all other candidates combined”

Makes sense. After Harry Reid (out with an eye injury) he has the worst attendance record in the Senate, so his cost per vote there was pretty steep too.

#16 Comment By grumpy realist On March 7, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

And now ol’ Jeb! is dithering about possibly endorsing Rubio.

This is supposed to help Rubio….HOW?

Can someone tell me what Establishment Republicans are smoking? From the complete tone-deafness of sending Mitt Romney out to wag his finger and tut-tut about Trump to Jeb Bush thinking that his endorsement will help anyone, they seem stuck in a maze of funhouse mirrors totally oblivious to reality about what Republican voters are doing this year.

Unless Bush is doing this in order to sabotage Rubio? Ok, I can see that….

#17 Comment By Uncle Billy On March 7, 2016 @ 1:56 pm

The GOP establishment now wants a brokered convention, since they cannot stop Trump, so the goal is to keep him from winning enough delegates for nomination. Perhaps Rubio thinks that in a brokered convention, he will somehow be the choice of the GOP establishment. Rubio has not done well in the primaries, so the GOP Establishment would likely chose Cruz or perhaps someone else. Kasich is a possibility, or perhaps even Paul Ryan.

In any event, a brokered convention will result in a split party (the Trumpkins will not support another candidate), thus Hillary strolls into the White House. Even if Trump is the nominee, I seriously doubt that he can win many Black or Hispanic votes, and he scares the moderates, thus, I don’t see him winning a national election.

A Hillary landslide might endanger the GOP control of the Senate, as there are 34 Senators up for election and 24 are Republicans, with only 10 Democrats. If the GOP loses the White House and the Senate, they are going to be in the wilderness for a long time.

#18 Comment By dll On March 7, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

Marco Poll low.

– Stolen from Twitter

#19 Comment By Ebenezer_Arvigenius On March 7, 2016 @ 6:16 pm

The Communist Party has routinely endorsed Democratic Party candidates since 1988. When will the MSM ask Hillary and Bernie to repudiate their support? Or is Trump the only one to be held that standard?

Probably once they start retweeting communist accounts and talking points.