Confidence check: Team Rubio prepares for a contested convention in Cleveland

I get the impression that somebody on Team Rubio was reading Allahpundit’s strategy for keeping both Cruz and the Florida senator in the race. Even after a feisty and widely applauded debate performance in Texas last night, there’s little doubt that Marco his a steep hill to climb. In fact, if he doesn’t start ringing up some first place finishes on Tuesday his path to the nomination will be looking increasingly dubious. (Much the same can be said for Ted Cruz, who also performed well last night, though a bit more low key.) So does all this have Rubio thinking of packing it in? Not if you listen to his staff. In fact, they’ve got a plan which runs all the way to Cleveland even if he doesn’t come out with the best sum in the delegate math game. That’s right… it started a while ago, but word on the street is that Rubio’s people are starting to publicly whisper about the possibility of some dirty tricks at the convention. (CNN)

Marco Rubio’s campaign is preparing for a contested Republican Convention as one option to take the GOP nomination away from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, his campaign manager told top donors at a closed-door meeting in Manhattan Wednesday night.

As Rubio scrambles for support ahead of Super Tuesday, Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s top adviser, used a Power Point presentation and took questions from attendees to lay out the two courses that Rubio’s quest for the GOP nomination could take in the coming months, two people present told CNN, speaking anonymously to share details from a private meeting.

During Sullivan’s presentation to supporters he made sure to point out that each of the possible paths to victory involved two people: Trump and Rubio. There was no mention of Ted Cruz as a viable alternative. You might see this as a denial of reality, but it’s just good politics if you’re trying to pry some major money out of contributors. (And Rubio is going to need a lot of cash fast if he wants to launch an air war in the number of states he’ll need to pull down in the next seventeen days.) The first, most desirable option was to point out the states they think they can win to just sweep the nomination on the first ballot. But the second was to win it through negotiations.

The sources CNN used for this report are short on details, saying only that Sullivan gave a “technical” explanation of how a contested or brokered convention would work. That doesn’t indicate a lack of a plan so much as an acknowledgement that there is simply no way to predict how it would play out this far in advance. We’d have to know who was coming in with delegates at that point and how many each candidate would have. Then Rubio would have to start making some offers in exchange for enough of the lower scoring candidates’ delegates to get him over the top even if Trump came in with the lead. (This exact same scenario could be played out for Ted Cruz, just to be clear. Or even someone not even in the race once the first ballots are done.)

If that did happen this summer then we may get to watch Hillary Clinton try to run the country from a jail cell, since Trump’s voters would rebel in force and mutiny in November. But all of this is still premature in the extreme as far as I’m concerned. A brokered convention is now considerably more likely than it was a few months ago, but it’s still far from a sure thing. Trump could still run the table or, alternately, be taken down by something like a bad debate and allow either Cruz or Rubio to get past the magic number. But for now, break out the popcorn. This is still shaping up to the most interesting election in decades.


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