Are you a Floridian who is a Ted Cruz fanatic, hopes against hope that John Kasich somehow pulls off the upset of all upsets, or is still on the Ben Carson train? We hate to say it, but a vote for any of those three in the Florida primary at this point is basically meaningless. In fact, you might hurt your candidate's chance at the actual nomination if you vote for him in the Sunshine State.
Sure, you can look at voting as a self-affirming act in which you choose the candidate who best represents your truest political feelings. In most primary situations, it's fine to vote that way. But you can also look at voting as a strategic decision in which you value the best way to practically implement your political goals over your identification with a single candidate.
For Republicans voting in the primary in Florida this year, it's probably best to think of this contest strategically.
See, presidential nominations are a game of delegates rather than one of a popular vote. However, in every state that has voted so far, delegates have been awarded proportionally. Cruz may have won Iowa, but he racked up only eight delegates compared to seven each for Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. (South Carolina is an odd practical exception.)
That won't be the case in Florida. There's no prize for the runnerup here. Beginning March 15, states are allowed to award every single one of the delegates to the first-place finisher whether he wins by one percent or 50 percent. Florida will the first big state to use the winner-take-all system.
There are 99 delegates at stake here. That's 4 percent of the total or 8 percent of those needed to win the nomination.
The reality is, at least according to the latest polls, Cruz, Carson, and Kasich have no hope of winning Florida. Cruz was at 10 and 12 percent in two polls released in the past two days of likely Florida primary voters. Carson and Kasich were in the single digits.
Meanwhile, Trump was 44 and 45 percent in the latest PPP and Quinnipiac polls. His closest competition was Rubio, who was sitting at 28 and 25.
In Florida, the reality is this is a two-man race, and the dynamics should essentially be Trump versus the anti-Trump vote, personified by Rubio.
However, PPP finds that even if Florida did have only two choices on the ballot, Trump would still beat Rubio 52 to 38. (A Trump-versus-Cruz two-way in Florida would be Trump's 60 to Cruz's 26.)
Sure, the majority of the Carson, Cruz, and Kasich voters would back Rubio, but the problem is that 25 percent of Cruz voters, 21 percent of Carson supporters, and 32 percent of Kasich supporters would break for Trump.
The long-game reality, though, is that if you want Cruz, Carson, or Kasich to win, well, your candidate would do best to let anyone but Trump take Florida's 99 delegates. It would keep the race more competitive and slow Trump's march to the nomination, leaving more room for someone else to succeed.
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If Trump ends up sweeping Super Tuesday and walks away with all of Florida's 99 delegates, a nomination for anyone else starts to look like an impossibility.
Granted, sure, something major could change between now and March 15. The reality, though, is that voting in Florida is already underway. Absentee ballots have been mailed to voters. About 250,000 votes have already been cast in the Republican primary.
The best advice is to hold onto your absentee ballot until after next Tuesday's whirlwind of primaries. If the dynamics of the overall race remain the same and the polling in Florida stays constant, the reality will remain that a vote for anyone besides Rubio or Trump in Florida is a wasted vote that will have no practical effect on the nomination.
So if you want Trump to win the nomination, vote for Trump in Florida. If you want anyone else to win, the best strategic decision to make in Florida is to vote for Rubio.