In interviews, Cruz’s staff and supporters laid out a concise and plausible strategy for their candidate to win the nomination. The first step: Consolidate right-wing support in the early voting states and then overrun the remaining competition with a superior ground game in later contests. In particular, they see an opportunity for Cruz to score big in the “SEC primary” on March 1, which includes several southern states including Cruz’s native Texas.

“Cruz has better organization in the Super Tuesday states on March 1 than most have in Iowa right now,” Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a key Cruz supporter in the state, told MSNBC. “The further we go into the field, that’s where you really see more of his organization and fundraising advantage begin to really take hold.”…

The idea, his aides contend, is that Cruz only needs to get to a two- or three-person race before his advantages kick in and push him over the finish line. Rubio will lock down the moderates, Cruz will lock down the hardcore right, and then they’ll fight over the broad conservative pool of voters in-between. This is the dynamic that’s driven them to open conflict, with Rubio trying to undermine Cruz’s conservative credentials and Cruz trying to do the same for Rubio.