Though former GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio hasn't endorsed his onetime rival Ted Cruz, he's making quiet moves behind the scenes to help deny Donald Trump a majority of delegates heading into the Cleveland -- maneuvers that are likely to benefit Ted Cruz. Earlier this week, Rubio formally requested that his name be removed from the ballot in California. This would help to avoid a repeat of what happened in Arizona, where Rubio received tens of thousands of votes, having already exited the race:
Rubio, who suspended his campaign earlier this month, asked the California Secretary of State to take his name off the ballot ahead of the state's June 7 primary. Candidates who drop out of the race must file an affidavit with the secretary of State's office if they want their names taken off the California ballot. The request must be filed before April 1. No other GOP candidates have requested their names be removed from the ballot, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Polls have shown that a large majority of Rubio supporters would support Cruz and John Kasich over Trump, who once again abandoned his meaningless GOP "loyalty" pledge last night on CNN. Speaking of polls and California, a new Los Angeles Times poll shows a very tight race in that West Coast delegate goldmine, where Trump may either clinch or be deprived of the Republican nomination:
Trump, passionately supported and deeply reviled in different corners of the electorate, has extended his reach among Republicans since the last USC/Los Angeles Times poll was taken in September. He now has the support of 37% of GOP voters surveyed, up from 24%. Cruz, who was in single digits in the last poll behind candidates who have since left the race, is now at 30%. The third candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was invisible last September and is now at 12%. But among the voters most likely to turn out, the poll shows the race between Trump and Cruz is nearly tied, with Trump at 36% versus Cruz at 35%. The difference illustrates how a low turnout in the June 7 primary could hurt Trump and boost Cruz.
California's 169 bound delegates are apportioned through a hybrid winner-take-all system. A handful are awarded to the statewide winner, but the large majority are allocated to the victor in each of the state's 53 Congressional districts. Two interesting analyses of delegate trajectories and strategic campaigning or voting:
By my estimate, Trump needs to not just win Cali but also win clear majority of CDs. Latest LAT poll has a 1% race. https://t.co/w6DzJhRgB8— Taniel (@Taniel) March 28, 2016
Back to Rubio. The other play he made this week was to officially request that the 171 delegates he earned over the course of his campaign remain bound to him on the first ballot under the rules, and not simply be "released" as free agents. Allahpundit explains the significance of what Rubio is doing, and why it may be more tactically helpful to Cruz than a mere pro forma endorsement:
The only way [Rubio] can ensure they don’t vote for Trump on the first ballot is to keep them bound to him for that vote. And it’s the first ballot, remember, that’s all-important for Trump. The delegates he’s won in the primaries are required to vote for him on that ballot only; Team Cruz is hard at work making sure that Cruz fans are elected across the country as Trump delegates so that, if Trump fails to clinch a majority on the first ballot, they’ll switch to Cruz en masse once they become unbound on the second. Every delegate that Rubio releases now becomes an unbound delegate whom Trump could, in theory, convince to support him on the first ballot, which increases the chance that he’ll get to 1,237. (Cruz could also win over Rubio’s unbound delegates, of course, but no one thinks Cruz will be close enough to win outright on the first ballot. Those delegates won’t matter to him unless he makes it to the second.) What Rubio’s doing here, in other words, is limiting the number of available unbound delegates to make it that much harder for Trump to win...
Cruz fans owe Rubio thanks for this. In fact, it’s almost certainly better than an endorsement. Think of it this way: If Rubio succeeds in keeping, say, 100 delegates away from Trump on the first ballot, that’s the equivalent to Cruz of winning a very large state. (Florida was only 99 delegates.) Rubio endorsing Cruz and campaigning for him might move some votes his way, but it’s hard to believe it’d make enough difference in enough states to shift 100 delegates to Cruz. And it may be an either/or choice: If Rubio endorses Cruz, that may be treated for purposes of state GOP rules as him no longer maintaining an “active campaign,” which would mean Rubio’s delegates become unbound. Rubio might be better off staying out of the fray and keeping his delegates on the board.
Sure enough, that's exactly what Team Rubio says he's doing: "Of course, he’s no longer a candidate and wants to give voters a chance to stop Trump," a spokesman told the Washington Examiner. Trump may not have heard the last of "Little Marco" just yet. And don't forget Team Cruz's cunning, hardball "trojan horse" delegate plot that's afoot to thwart Trump if he fails to secure the nomination on the first convention ballot. I'll leave you with another delegate controversy, this time in Louisiana, where the amateurish Trump campaign is getting out-lawyered and out-gunned by Cruz -- resulting in predictable whines and lies: