Can Ted Cruz Topple Donald Trump After Rubio's Departure?

Ted Cruz is the one person standing between Donald Trump and the Republican nomination, now that Florida Senator Marco Rubio has bowed out.

Last night, Trump won four out of the five states (as well a the Northern Mariana Islands), amassing 186 delegates to 27 for Cruz -- although given the closeness of the Missouri race, those numbers could change.

Ohio Governor John Kasich defeated Trump in Ohio, taking all 66 delegates in the winner-take-all contest. Cruz placed third there.

In sum, Trump now has 646 delegates, Cruz 397, Rubio 169, and Kasich 142. 1,237 are needed to capture the GOP nomination.

Cruz Stands To Gain From Rubio's Departure

Ted Cruz supporters at a rally
[Photo by Kiichiro Sato/AP Images]A Morning Consult poll asked Rubio supporters who their second choice was to be the Republican nominee. The results are as follows.
  • 47 percent - Ted Cruz
  • 23 percent - John Kasich
  • 13 percent - Donald Trump
  • 9 percent - someone else
  • 5 percent - don't know
Assuming that Rubio's supporters voted along these lines last night (if Rubio had already dropped out), Cruz would not have passed Trump in Florida. However, he would have come close in Illinois, where Trump beat Cruz, 38.8 percent -- 30.3 percent.

But Cruz would have either beaten Trump or at least come very close to doing so in North Carolina. There, Trump won 40.2 percent -- 36.8 percent, while Rubio had 7.7 percent. Trump won 29 delegates, to 27 for Cruz.

Cruz would have won Missouri, which Trump won in a squeaker, 40.8 percent -- 40.6 percent, or by less than 2,000 votes (Rubio had 57,006 at 6.1 percent).

Rubio has not endorsed anyone yet, but when he does, it probably won't be Trump, who has referred to him derisively as "Little Marco."

At his concession speech last night, Rubio stated what he believes needs to happen.

"America needs a vibrant conservative movement, but one that's build upon principles and ideas, not on fear, not on anger, not on preying on people's frustrations."
That statement is a likely reference to Trump, who has gained traction by advocating a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border which he says Mexico will pay for.


One of Rubio's top advisors is calling upon his supporters to support Cruz.


Cruz also reached out to Rubio and his supporters in a Tweet.


Cruz' Chances, Looking Ahead

So even if the Florida Senator doesn't endorse Cruz right away, Cruz nonetheless is already gaining from Rubio's exodus. Which is why Cruz continues to take aim at Trump.


Cruz' new-found strength in Rubio's absence will be put to the test next Tuesday, March 22, when the Arizona primary (52 delegates) and the Utah caucus (40 delegates) will vote.

The most recent Arizona poll showed Trump beating Cruz, 37%-23%, with 15% for Kasich and 12% for Rubio. However, a March 15 poll found Cruz ahead with 25 percent, with 22.7 percent for Trump (Rubio placed third with 21 percent, and Kasich had 7 percent).

Wisconsin (42 delegates) votes on April 5. The most recent poll, taken February 19-22 by Marquette University, had Trump at 30 percent, Rubio at 20 percent, and Cruz at 19 percent.

If Ted Cruz can gain significant ground on Donald Trump in the delegate count in those three contests, that will go a long way in determining whether he can capture the Republican nomination.

Head-To-Head Against Clinton

Ted Cruz hopes to take on Hillary Clinton
[Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]Cruz does have one argument over his rival, however: polls currently show him doing well in head-to-head match-ups against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, winning four out of five polls against her.

Meanwhile, Trump won just one of six polls against Clinton, losing by an average of 6.3 percent, and as much as 13 percent in an NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll.

Ted Cruz hopes to make this case to Republican voters in the coming weeks. If he does not, then the nominee will be Donald Trump.

[Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]