POLITICS

Ted Cruz hoping home state advantage pays off in Texas primary

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 4:  U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks on stage during the victory party for Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott on November 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott defeated Democratic challenger Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 4: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks on stage during the victory party for Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott on November 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott defeated Democratic challenger Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

How Ted Cruz performs in his home state on March 1 could determine whether his presidential campaign hopes would ride or die.

Cruz’s home state of Texas is a major jewel in the primary elections – with 155 delegates up for grabs – and the senator is hoping to turn his home turf advantage into a major victory over rivals like Donald Trump and Marico Rubio.

"I wanna say, I cannot wait to get home to the great state of Texas," Cruz said Tuesday night after losing in Nevada to Trump. "Tonight, I'll sleep in my bed for the first time in a month."

Cruz’s return to Texas will be a welcome one after scoring a major endorsement from his former boss, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who endorsed him on Wednesday. Cruz also has the backing of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and current Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, along with nearly one-fourth of the Republicans representing Texas in Congress and about half of the Republicans in the state Legislature.

"After 8 years of relentless attacks on our values from this White House, it's our duty as Texas conservatives to support a leader we can trust to restore our values and move this country forward," Abbott said in a video message on Wednesday. "That's why I'm supporting Ted Cruz for president."

Out of all the presidential candidates, Cruz has spent the most time this campaign season touring around the south in an effort to win over the region’s large group of conservative, evangelical Christians. The demographic helped buoy him to a win in the Iowa Caucus, but he failed to carry their vote in the South Carolina primary last week.

Cruz’s campaign has relied on a strong ground game in the early voting states and as the race moves into the heart of the primaries, his strategy is no different in Texas. He has 27,000 volunteers in the Lone Star state.

But Cruz will have to win more than just Texas on Tuesday if he doesn't want to be looking up at Trump in the delegate count.

The only other candidate working over Texans right now is Rubio, whose Conservative Solutions PAC has run ads labelling Cruz as "calculated, underhanded."

While Cruz is seen as the prospective favorite to win the Texas primary, nothing is guaranteed in a campaign season that has so far been dominated by Trump.

Cruz holds a slim one percentage point lead over Trump in the latest poll from Texas – with Rubio close behind – and, unlike other big states like Ohio and Florida, Texas is not a winner-take-all state. This means that for a candidate to take home all 155 delegates, he will have to win a majority of the votes cast statewide and in each congressional district.

Still, some political observers say that Cruz’s ground game and his home field advantage will carry him to victory in the state.

"He's a native-son candidate," GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said. "Support for him is very strong."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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