Former presidential candidate Marco Rubio hasn’t endorsed anyone in the 2016 race, but he’s made some strategic maneuvers that would more than likely benefit his onetime rival, Ted Cruz.
First, Rubio formally requested earlier this week that his name be removed from the ballot in California:
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.
How would this help Cruz? Well, despite having already left the race, Rubio received tens of thousands of votes in the Arizona primary — votes that, had his name not been on the ballot, likely would have gone to Cruz. And in the battle for the delegate goldmine that is California, every vote will count.
Second, Rubio also requested this week to keep the 171 delegates he earned during his campaign. In other words, they won’t be released as “free agents” to vote for whomever they please, which is very good for Cruz:
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.
This is, in practice, even better than an endorsement. The next few weeks will be interesting.