Is Rubio betting on the media to push him to the nomination?
Stu Rothenberg framed a question in Roll Call asking if Rubio can win even if he loses. He brought up Bill Clinton and George McGovern as examples (having to dig that far back in history is almost embarrassing), noting that no GOP contender has missed winning either Iowa or N.H. since 1976.
The current skinny, subject to daily change is that Rubio should take a solid third place in Iowa and has the best shot at second place in N.H. Nationally, he’s in third, on the upswing past a quickly-fading Carson.
Rothenberg brings up Giuliani’s ill-fated 2008 run, only to dismiss it.
Giuliani ignored most of the early contests (playing only half-heartedly in New Hampshire) and instead placed a huge bet on Florida’s January 29th primary, which he hoped would jump-start his campaign and create momentum going into the February 5th Super Tuesday contests, which included New York, California, New Jersey and more than a dozen other contests.
Those who wonder about Rubio’s approach call it a passive strategy that relies on other candidates losing rather than on Rubio winning, and they argue that a series of defeats could well put Rubio in a hole from which he cannot escape.
Two things have to happen to give Rubio a shot. Trump and Cruz will have to stage their Thunderdome match, leaving only one; and the media will have to line up behind Rubio in time for the “SEC primary.” Each of these things have perils attached. At this point, South Carolina looks like it will shake out as the Trump vs. Cruz race, with Christie lost in the noise, and that’s good for Rubio, who’s a solid third and being pummeled by Jeb Bush and his super PAC.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appear to be putting all of their chips on performing well in New Hampshire, and if one or more of them does surprisingly well, that certainly could change the conventional wisdom about the GOP “finalists” and Rubio’s prospects.
Ideally, the best chance for Rubio is having Bush quit after N.H., but that seems unlikely. Christie’s performance in the Granite State will be the bellwether for Rubio’s future, and in such a crowded field, that translates to literally hundreds of voters.
Rubio’s path is then: play up third place in Iowa, let the media frame N.H. as Rubio vs. Trump, and head into S.C. as the solid center-lane player. Then he’s just got to hope that Trump and Cruz mutually self-annihilate before the SEC primary and count on a friendly press who would love to destroy both of them to do the dirty work. It’s a long pass, but not a miracle.
As a former college football player, Rubio knows the value of a long pass. He has to hope the ball arrives at the point to which he’s running.