Las Vegas, NV – Last night on Ralston Live, prominent Marco Rubio endorser, failed former Governor and top nuclear industry lobbyist Bob List had this to say about his candidate’s ability to win Nevada’s Republican caucuses in February: “Well, you know, uh, I can’t, nobody’s going to swear to who’s going to win.” After that rousing defense of Rubio’s Nevada operation, Governor List went on to note that polls continue to show Trump dominating the race as the GOP frontrunner.
Veteran reporter Jon Ralston echoed our thoughts when he responded sarcastically, “You’re overwhelming me with your confidence, Governor List!” We guess Governor List thinks about as much of Rubio’s Nevada chair and personal injury attorney Mark Hutchison’s political ability as his fellow Republicans think of his legal acumen.
It’s no secret that Marco Rubio’s campaign strategy (or lack thereof) is simply baffling. His failure to engage with voters and establish himself in any of the four early-nominating states is driving widespread doubts about his viability for the Republican nomination.
As the Los Angeles Times noted recently, Rubio’s campaign has started conceding that his best (maybe only) chance at a first-place victory has trickled down to Nevada. And while Team Rubio is now trying desperately to tout Nevada as his early state firewall, the reality on the ground here is that the cards aren’t falling Rubio’s way.
From Mother Jones on why Rubio’s best shot at an early state is now (at best) an uphill climb:
“Rubio’s biggest concern is: Where do I get an early win?” says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “That is what is keeping them up at night.”
The answer is looking increasingly like Nevada. The problem is that Rubio’s currently trailing badly in the polls there, and his best shot at early momentum is an uphill climb.
Trump and Cruz, whose campaign is ramping up its efforts in Nevada, both lead Rubio in the latest poll in the state. Polling in Nevada has been sparse, and it’s notoriously difficult to predict the outcome of caucuses with statewide polls. But the numbers in the latest survey show Rubio 22 points behind Trump and 9 points behind Cruz—hardly a front-runner position.
For months, Cruz has been talking about the federal government’s massive land holdings in the West, an issue that, as O’Connell points out, is a big deal in Nevada. And, like Rubio, he has enlisted prominent Mormons to help him win over that demographic.
Then there’s Jeb Bush, who’s looking for his chance at a comeback. Initially, his path to the nomination was supposed to begin in New Hampshire, but with the former Florida governor trailing badly there, Nevada could become Bush’s last stand if he lasts until late February. Bush’s campaign claims it has the best organization in Nevada, and that in a caucus state, organization is what matters most.
“We’ve made close to a quarter of a million contacts” with voters, says Republican strategist Ryan Erwin, a senior adviser to the Bush campaign. “In an election where turnout has never reached 50,000 for a Republican caucus, the campaign that turns out the extra four or five thousand people beyond its goal probably wins.”
And who would suffer most if Bush manages a decent showing in Nevada? The other candidate banking on the support of establishment voters: Rubio.