Donald Trump faces big tests today in four state contests, with several observers wondering if the blustery billionaire has peaked — even as some advisers of Marco Rubio are reportedly urging him to back out of next week’s primary in his home state and drop out of the race.
Trump is perceived to be reeling from an onslaught of negative ads from establishment Republicans and a disappointing weekend when he finished second in delegates to Ted Cruz.
“The last week hasn’t been too good for him,” said John Bruce, a political science professor at the University of Mississippi. “But it’s not clear — did he get a paper cut or did he break his leg?”
Rubio continues to struggle in Florida polls, including a Monmouth University survey yesterday showing he trails Trump by 8 points.
The Rubio camp is publicly hopeful that he will pull out a victory in his home state primary March 15, but privately some advisers are urging him to drop out of the race because they believe a loss there could permanently damage his political prospects, according to CNN.
“He doesn’t want to get killed in his home state,” one adviser is quoted telling the cable news network, noting “a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future.”
The Rubio campaign strenuously disputed the report.
Republican voters in Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho all go to the polls today, while Hawaii holds caucuses. A Monmouth University poll in Michigan yesterday showed Trump at 36 percent, Cruz at 23 percent, John Kasich at 21 percent and Rubio at 13 percent.
But polls have tended to overstate Trump’s support. In Louisiana, surveys last week showed him up by as many as 20 points. But he won the state Saturday by fewer than 4 points over Cruz — and both emerged with the same number of delegates, 18. The results also indicated Trump held big leads among early voters, but Cruz won among those on Election Day.
“He’s in for a battle,” said Aaron Kall, the director of debate at the University of Michigan, who said he thinks Trump support started sliding after he fumbled a question about the Ku Klux Klan on CNN last month. “It’s a big test, but ultimately I think he will probably end up prevailing in Michigan, even if it might be more narrowly than expected.”
Trump could survive a split-decision today, but his path to the magic number of 1,237 delegates needed to win gets much narrower if he loses Florida and Ohio, whose 155 combined delegates are winner-take-all.
Amid a deluge of anti-Trump TV ads in the Sunshine State by super PACs, the New York tycoon yesterday released his own minute-long indictment blasting “corrupt Marco Rubio” for his poor Senate attendance record and private use of a state party credit card for personal expenses while he was Florida house speaker.
Sid Dinerstein, a former Palm Beach County GOP chairman, said Florida voters still hold a grudge over Rubio’s involvement in the so-called Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform efforts.
“There’s a section of the core Republican electorate in this state who has not gotten past that,” said Dinerstein. “There’s a belief that if Marco is president, that all illegals get to stay.”
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