Dr. Ben Carson is facing intense media scrutiny over controversial statements and flimsy stories. Donald Trump is just off a dismal performance as host of "SNL." Behind the two jockeying poll leaders are two half-Cuban senators who now threaten to emerge as the strongest Republican primary candidates.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz entered the Senate riding the Tea Party populist wave in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Despite being federal legislators, they can also tow the nonestablishment line. Rubio, however, has come to the fore as the more complete and better-liked candidate — a sentiment reflected in the polls.
The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average places Rubio solidly in third place with just under 12% of Republican primary voters nationally. Conservative heavyweights have also begun to see the writing on the wall and have started endorsing Rubio.
Sens. Daines, Risch and Gardner have pledged their support for Rubio, helping him rise to second in the “Endorsement Primary.”
Even more telling, his odds to win the Republican primary, according to PredictWise, are at 40%. That’s a significant lead over the second-most-likely candidate to win the nomination: Donald Trump at 20%. Cruz cruises into third with 11%.
Following his strong performance at the last Republican debate, Rubio has also attracted additional funding, most notably from billionaire Paul Singer. He lags slightly behind Cruz in total fundraising, but has not spent as much. The Rubio campaign also released a number of online-only ad spots, in which he seems candid and relatable.
There are some open-ended issues he will have to address.
Though he recently released full credit-card statements, questions still loom about his use of Republican Party funds. There are also questions about his immigration views, having been deeply involved in a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. Sen. Rand Paul said about Rubio’s collaboration with Democrats on the bill: “It was a Rubio bill. It was a Rubio-Schumer bill.”
He will look to solidify his position as a credible front-runner in tonight’s debate. He has been strong in previous debates, and we can expect another good showing from the polished Republican. For months, pundits have projected Trump’s fall and recent engagements may help catalyze his demise. Carson also seems to be getting frustrated and nervous about media scrutiny.
When, I’m saying when the two current front-runners are pushed out, it will be Sen. Marco Rubio who picks up the spoils. He will face Cruz from his right and Bush from his left, but Rubio is in a great position moving forward.