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Cruz and Trump split-decision in Super Saturday showdown

Marco Rubio needs to do the right thing – drop out now and clear the path for Republican and conservative voters to choose between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

If there was any doubt after ‘Super Tuesday’ that the 2016 Republican presidential race was down to two Ted Cruzcompetitors, the results of ‘Super Saturday’ should handsomely dispel it.

Cruz and Trump each “won” two states on Saturday, meaning they both had the most votes in two states – and they also practically split the available delegates on the day.

Cruz emerged with at least 64 delegates and Trump corralled 59 on Saturday. Also-rans Marco Rubio and John Kasich took thirteen and nine respectively. The overall totals now show Trump with 378 to Cruz’s 295. Rubio has 123 and Kasich counts 34.

Cruz added a victory in the CPAC straw poll, so we’ll tip the day overall to Ted.

In their assessments of the day’s results, both Cruz and Trump argued Rubio should exit gracefully. Katie Glueck of Politico reports Cruz said at a press conference, “Donald has a delegate lead right now, though it is fewer than 100 delegates. We’ll continue to amass delegates but what needs to happen is the field needs to continue to narrow.”

As usual, Trump was a little more direct. “I want Ted, one on one," The Donald said at his own press event in Florida.

I’m not sure if Trump is calling on Rubio to bow out because he truly thinks he can beat Cruz head-to-head or because he doesn’t want to take another beating at the hands of the Florida senator during Thursday night’s final Republican presidential debate (in Miami Florida).

For his part, Rubio remains delusional on his chances, remarking while campaigning in Puerto Rico, “Tonight we will have more delegates than we did last night. This map only gets better for us.

“We’re gonna win Florida and you’ll find out on March 15 how confident we are.”

Rubio may still be confident, but the problem is the voters are bailing on him quickly. Whereas Rubio competed with Cruz for the “not-Trump” vote up through Super Tuesday, on Saturday he was nowhere close to either of the frontrunners in any state.

By the numbers, Rubio tallied 16.7 percent in Kansas, 16.4 in Kentucky, 11.2 in Louisiana and a paltry 8 percent in Maine, where he didn’t even meet the 10% minimum threshold for delegates.

Meanwhile, Cruz’s totals in those states were 48.2 percent, 31.6, 37.8 and 45.9 respectively.

In both Kentucky and Louisiana, Cruz fell about four points short of Trump. Kansas, Kentucky and Maine were caucus states and Louisiana held a primary.

In other words, Cruz on both Tuesday and Saturday proved he’s competitive with Trump in a primary setting – and that’s even with Rubio and Kasich still in the race. If Rubio leaves, Cruz will likely get most of his voters.

Outwardly at least, Trump remains confident he can finish the job. The pundits keep pointing to the crucial Florida and Ohio primaries on March 15. If The Donald wins both of those, he could be close to unstoppable.

But at the same time, it’s clear Cruz is emerging as Trump’s lone competitor.

Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi vote on Tuesday. I suspect we’ll see a continuation of the trend in those states as well – and there will be even more pressure on Rubio to call it quits.

After Saturday, it’s clear the M-O is with Ted Cruz

As I was watching the returns on Saturday night I was a bit surprised that Cruz wasn’t doing better in Louisiana and Kentucky.

But then as the evening went on Cruz ticked ever closer to Trump in those states while pulling off the real stunner of the day on Saturday, a victory in Maine of all places.

Not knowing the internal politics of any of these states, I figured that if Cruz truly had momentum after last Thursday’s debate he would be overtaking Trump in southern states with conservative voting constituencies.

In reality, he was.

Josh Hammer of The Resurgent writes, “Perhaps most interesting is Louisiana, which the networks called almost instantaneously after Trump dominated early voting returns.  However, Cruz surged back by outright winning day-of voting, dramatically narrowing Trump’s overall victory margin and providing such tremendous late momentum that Nate Silver and others have been tweeting that the networks risked a huge (“yuge?”) embarrassment by not rescinding their early predictions there for a Trump victory.”

It’s true. When the returns began coming in at 9 pm EST, Trump had a 20-plus point lead that kept shrinking as the night went on. As more votes were reported, The Donald’s margin kept getting smaller. As Hammer highlighted, early voting gave Trump his final advantage.

The “late deciders” all went to Cruz.

The same is largely true in Kentucky, though as a caucus state (thanks to Rand Paul), early voting wouldn’t be a factor there. Trump’s early 8-point margin was cut in half by the time the race was called.

The Fox News hosts showed graphics on how John Kasich was doing in Kentucky counties that bordered Ohio – which was quite well. Therefore, this unique geographic factor also contributed to Trump’s overall win there.

Though Cruz didn’t come out with wins in those states, he still ended up with a virtual tie in terms of delegates.

And perhaps even more importantly, all of the states voting on Saturday showed Cruz with a significant improvement in his overall percentage of the vote (as compared to states like South Carolina a few weeks ago).

Republicans and conservatives are seeing it as a two-man race. Trump is holding steady, for the most part, in earning his consistent portion of the votes. But Cruz is going up, dramatically.

Marco’s happy face can’t hide the pain

Finally today, Marco Rubio had an awful day on Saturday, no matter how you look at it.

From his sinking vote percentages to poor delegate tallies, there’s just no way around  it – he’s finished in the 2016 race.

He’s left with just his handsome grin.

Conservative author Jason Jones writes in Breitbart, “So on these crucial issues—how America values religious liberty, how it uses its military power, whether it imposes order on its international borders, and how to craft a compromise that will bring exploited immigrants in out of the shadows—Marco Rubio has shown that he is not a leader. He is guided by no firm core of non-negotiable values that should encourage voters to trust him. Perhaps that is why they come to see him as an empty suit, with a shallow, desperate smile.”

Like parents trying to comfort a child after coming in last in a relay race, Rubio’s establishment handlers are feeding him lies about his prospects for a dramatic comeback.

Maybe he believes it, maybe he doesn’t. But if Marco stays around until March 15 and then gets clobbered by both Trump and Cruz in Florida, his political reputation may be irreparably damaged.

He’ll be branded as a loser who hung on too long, like an athlete who refused to quit until his body gave out.

For Rubio, that time is now. He needs to get out before he embarrasses himself even worse.

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