Rubio finished in fifth place in New Hampshire after a dismal debate performance, losing late-deciding voters as well. But he came back in South Carolina and then also performed well among last-week deciders in Nevada.
In Nevada, where Rubio finished second at 23.9%, within the margin of error of CNN/ORC’s final poll putting him at 19%, the number of people making up their minds late was smaller. Some 30% said they picked in the last week — splitting 39% for Rubio, 26% for Trump (the eventual winner) and 24% for Cruz. Of the 70% who made up their mind earlier, Trump got 55%, Cruz 20% and Rubio 18%.
Rubio tends to perform well among voters who say electability is important to them, a core pitch of his campaign. His strategy has also been predicated on staying close enough to the front-runner without winning, assuming he’ll pick up the support he needs eventually as other candidates drop out and leave a two-man race.
“The race is very fluid at this moment,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said, citing candidates exiting the campaign and many Super Tuesday states not seeing much campaign advertising up to this point, as well as a concerted effort to ding Trump.