Trump versus Cruz: The battle for the south

Cruz has Trump, and the rest of the field, beat on organization, but Trump still lures the bigger audiences. And there is an increasing acknowledgement, even among the Republican elite, that the billionaire real estate developer has a committed base here, some of whom are likely voters and not the political celebrity gawkers many mainstream GOP operatives have guessed…

Certainly, Rubio’s not out; a viable path remains here for the candidate who has spent considerable resources building infrastructure in the South. Rubio has a long list of legislative endorsements in Tennessee, Alabama and elsewhere in the region. Particularly in this more moderate parts of Tennessee, many people are torn between Rubio and Cruz.

But the feeling on the ground is that Cruz has the momentum with conservative activists and that there’s some true support behind Trump’s high poll numbers, much as many party stalwarts wish otherwise. And while Rubio is generating considerable interest among more centrist Republican voters, he’s being squeezed not just on the right by Cruz but in the moderate lane by Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

“Rubio’s got a lot of names, prominent elected officials, he’s the establishment darling right now,” said Chris Brown, a Birmingham, Ala. consultant who is backing Bush. “But that is not contributing to rank-and-file voters. They are more Cruz-oriented.”