They’re not talking about a victory sweep on Super Tuesday, but in order to stay in survival mode, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are aiming to come in a strong second.
Polls show that Donald Trump is likely to come in first in the voting that will take place in 11 states, with a prize of hundreds of delegates.
Rubio and Cruz have stepped up their attacks on the billionaire, who has the support of nearly 50 percent of GOP voters, according to a new CNN poll released Monday. Rubio and Cruz trailed far behind, with 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
At the same time, GOP voters who indicated they do not favor Trump said they very likely would not vote for him in the general election.
Rubio and Cruz dismiss talk of Trump – who has won three early contests (New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) – as the inevitable GOP nominee. They have been stomping in Super Tuesday states hoping to keep their campaigns viable, according to Roll Call.
Rubio says Trump is not a true Republican, and that he will stay in the race for the long haul, saying that the party would be imperiled by a Trump candidacy for president.
Cruz, who at one time had something of a gentleman’s agreement with Trump, where both seemed to avoid criticizing each other, now is doggedly accusing the mogul of a variety of things.
Both senators have released their tax information, hoping to put pressure on Trump to release his. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, saying that the federal government is auditing him and he does not want to make the information public while the inquiry is ongoing. Cruz and Rubio call his reasoning preposterous, saying that an audit does not a preclude someone from releasing tax returns.
States participating in Super Tuesday are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Texas has the most delegates – 155.
Polls show Cruz leading Trump in his home state of Texas, by about 10 percent.
In total, Trump has 81 delegates, Cruz and Rubio have 17.
Republican candidates need 1,237 delegates to get the nomination; Democrats need 2,383.
“Super Tuesday is the single-best opportunity to stop Donald Trump and to ensure that we nominate a candidate who is a proven conservative, who is a real conservative,” Cruz told reporters, according to Roll Call.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is endorsing Rubio, said to NBC News: “The stakes are high. If our nominee does not win, Hillary Clinton’s justices will control the Supreme Court for 30 years and we’ll be stuck with Obamacare forever.”
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, of Georgia, also backs Rubio. He says he doubts that Trump can get all the delegates needed to be the nominee.
“Most of the people I talk to say they like Trump,” Westmoreland said in an interview with Roll Call. “They think he’s brought a lot to the table, taking some of the white elephants out of the room. But, they say they just couldn’t vote for him.”
“I think it’s got to winnow pretty quickly, although I’m not sure that Mr. Trump can get the 1,237 that (he) needs, and then it will — you know — just get to an ugly situation,” Westmoreland said. “So I hope that doesn’t occur.”
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