As Trump strengthens his lead, Cruz and Marco Rubio are locked in a battle with one another (and, sure, Ben Carson and John Kasich). Both know that they have no chance of winning the nomination while the other stays in the race.
Rubio’s argument, even after Super Tuesday, remains abstract: He is the best general election candidate, the party’s best hope against Hillary Clinton. But Cruz’s argument, especially after tonight’s victories in Texas and Oklahoma, is much more concrete and immediate: Ted Cruz can beat Donald Trump in the Republican primary because he has done it before.
In the coming days, we’re going to hear this line over and over again from Cruz’s camp, as it calls for the rest of the Republican primary field to fall into line behind the man who beat Trump three times. There are a lot of problems with this narrative. For one, there’s no evidence that his coalition of Evangelicals and super-conservative voters would swell if his non-Trump competitors exited the race. But that dynamic holds true for Rubio as well. And Cruz can do one thing Rubio can’t: point to the scoreboard, where he’s also losing to Trump, but by slightly less.