If it was implicit before, it is now explicit: Ted Cruz wants Marco Rubio and the rest of the also-rans to get out of his way and let him take on Donald Trump, one-on-one.
“So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains likely,” Cruz said in a speech to his supporters in Texas. “We have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat, and that will beat Donald Trump.”
Cruz then asked his rivals to “prayerfully consider our coming together,” and told supporters of other candidates that “We welcome you on our team, standing united as one.”
Though John Kasich and Ben Carson are technically still in the race, this message was intended for one man: Marco Rubio. Rubio, who is the Republican establishment’s favorite candidate, has not yet won a single primary race. He has consistently underperformed, and Tuesday’s results marked a major blow to his presidential hopes.
But Florida, Rubio’s home state, votes next week. Though polls show him behind Trump, Rubio might still think he can turn it all around back at home.
What feels rational to outside observers isn’t always so clear for those involved. So while it may seem sensible for Rubio to join Cruz’s side, perhaps in exchange for a place on the ticket or a spot in a Cruz presidential cabinet, matters of politics or individual egos may very well keep that from happening.
The ball is in Rubio’s court. We’ll see what he does with it.