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Rubio's Future and GOP Brand Hangs in the Balance

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/03/2016 Kevin Price
MARCO RUBIO © Stephen Maturen via Getty Images MARCO RUBIO

Super Tuesday was nothing but a big disappointment for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the pressure is now on for him to get out of the race for the White House in order to make it possible for the only viable alternative to Donald Trump -- Sen. Ted Cruz -- to possibly have a chance. I'm attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC this week, and the announcement of Dr. Ben Carson getting out of the race was followed with sighs of relief. However, those sighs were almost immediately replaced with the question, how do we get Rubio out of this race? Even by people who would normally support him.
This is the political landscape that the pundits observe about Super Tuesday:
Marco Rubio has only won one state -- Minnesota -- which is a state that is very Democrat and will not be a factor in November for Republicans.
Many notice that some of the states Trump won -- including Massachusetts and Vermont -- will not be in play for the GOP in 2016.
Of the eight states left, Cruz won 3 of them. It is mathematically very likely he would have won Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, if Rubio had not been in the race (the theory is, Rubio voters are not likely to go to Trump, which is a very reasonable proposition based on their style and substance). That leaves Alabama, Massachusetts, and Vermont being the only states Trump would have likely received, even with Rubio out, based on conventional wisdom.
There are paths that can lead to a Ted Cruz victory. It is highly likely the votes Carson got would have gravitated towards Cruz (based on platform and constituencies, and in spite of recent "bad blood" between the two). However, unless Rubio gets out it is nothing but an uphill battle for Cruz and the GOP.
The situation is so dire that even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Cruz's biggest nemeses in the Senate is talking about it being time for Rubio to get out.
For Rubio, getting out would be extremely difficult. Before reaching the age of 30, Rubio began a career in politics (one of the reasons he has not gathered much traction among skeptical "Tea Party" type voters). He welded considerable power as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and developed a reputation as a deal maker, which is not a very good background for an "outsider" this political season. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and is up for reelection in 2016. In light of his announcements of hating the job and his terrible performance record of not even showing up, he does not have much of a chance if he decided to pursue reelection.
The best hope of a political future for Rubio is to pursue the governor's office, which is up for reelection in 2018. The current governor, Republican Rick Scott, will not be allowed to run due to term limits. The only other option would be if a Republican won the White House and Rubio enjoyed an appointment. That scenario is shrinking as a Trump nomination becomes increasingly likely.
The decision not to get out, however, would be catastrophic for the young senator. Virtually every ideological group in the GOP camp believe the Trump candidacy has the potential of making the GOP a permanent minority party. Rarely has one seen the hard right wing supporters of Cruz and the establishment wing that would gravitate to Rubio in more agreement on anything. Some believe that a Trump candidacy would lead to an obituary for the Republican Party. The only candidate outside of Trump that has gathered any traction at all is Ted Cruz. If Rubio does not make a path for the Senator from Texas to stop Trump, his career could be as devastated as the GOP brand will likely be with Trump receiving the nomination.
Rubio is not giving signs of surrendering, but the pressure is certainly on, especially with Carson's quick exit following Super Tuesday. It would certainly be beneficial for Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) to get out too, but he seems to be more interested in delivering a message than winning an election, since he mainly polls in the single digits where he runs. Rubio is a different story. His career and his party's future, literally hang in the balance.

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