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Marco Rubio’s Expectations Game – Nevada Edition

Las Vegas, NV – After trying to spin three straight losses as victories, here he goes again. Marco Rubio’s much-touted “3-2-1” early-state strategy fully crashed and burned in South Carolina on Saturday, and his campaign team is now scrambling to lower expectations in a state that they once touted as a “firewall.” With more political endorsements in Nevada than any other Republican candidate, childhood roots and family in the state, and having poured more time and more resources into the state than any other candidate in the field, Rubio will have no excuse for anything less than a big first-place finish in tonight’s GOP caucus.

And if he can’t win in Nevada, where he enjoys virtually every institutional advantage, then where can Marco Rubio actually win?

DECEMBER: National Review: “Nevada is Rubio’s Firewall”

December 21, 2015

Las Vegas — Marco Rubio is going all in to win Nevada.

Though the Florida senator has eschewed the idea that he needs to hunker down in any particular state, his campaign has quietly and steadily poured resources into the Silver State, where chaos and dismal turnout rule the caucuses.

Rumors of the Rubio campaign’s weak ground game in Iowa and New Hampshire have led many to conclude that his strategists don’t believe he needs an early-state victory to remain competitive as the primary season moves into March. But that narrative overlooks the reality on the ground here in Nevada, where his team has crafted the grassroots campaign that’s missing elsewhere. The result, according to more than a dozen Nevada GOP operatives and state officials, is the most organized and impressive operation of the Republican field.

“Rubio’s path to the first three states is small,” says one Republican state official. “It’s obvious that his campaign sees Nevada as his firewall.”

TWO DAYS AGO: Chaffetz tells Washington Post that a top 3 finish for Rubio in Nevada would be “good”

February 21, 2016

[…]

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a Rubio endorser, crashed the rally to talk to reporters — and insisted that Rubio would do himself good if he finished in the top three.

“He just needs to keep finishing in the top tier, or the top three, however you want to say it,” Chaffetz explained. “What’s different about this race this year is that there are more people still in it. It’s shorter, but it’s also more proportional.”

That was a relatively new message for the campaign. In May, campaign strategists called Nevada a firewall, a place where Rubio could put a win on the board if he struggled in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. As recently as December, National Review said Nevada revealed the Rubio “grassroots campaign that’s missing elsewhere.” Rubio lived in the state as a child, and he had briefly been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, strong among Nevada Republicans.

Yet on Sunday afternoon, Chaffetz found every possible escape hatch to avoid saying Rubio could win.