Megyn Kelly’s exchange with Marco Rubio comes at an interesting time for the Senator. She put him on the defensive about immigration, though I think he wound up delivering a solid answer. He clearly, though, was more defensive than Cruz when it was Cruz’s turn.
The exchange comes as Ted Cruz’s campaign is yanking all of Cruz’s ads in Iowa except the ads about Marco Rubio on immigration and amnesty. They intend to flood the zone on those ads over the coming days. [Update: The Cruz camp clarifies that it is leaving up a positive ad in support of Cruz in addition to the Rubio ad]
I talked to several people familiar with the thinking of the Cruz team and they all tell me this is not a sign that they are worried Rubio may be encroaching on Cruz, but that they think they are in a comfortable position to win in Iowa and are worried that their win might have to compete with the narrative of a Rubio surge.
The Cruz team thinks a lot of media voices are more favorable to Rubio than to Cruz. If Rubio is able to come in second place in Iowa or a strong third place finish, the media may very well highlight Rubio’s gains and not Cruz’s stronger position. That would bolster Rubio headed into New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
So the Cruz camp is going to do its best over the next several days to stop any momentum Rubio might have. At the Fox News debate, a lot of reporters noted several polls have show Rubio gaining ground in Iowa at the last minute as Cruz and Trump battled each other. Iowa is known for doing that.
On Saturday, the highly respected Ann Selzer is releasing her final poll in Iowa. The Cruz campaign is going to do its level best to make sure everything lines up for a story about how well Cruz is doing and not how much ground Rubio is gaining.
Four more days and we will know how effective this strategy is.