Marco Rubio's presidential campaign was a slow-motion dumpster fire. In state after state, he struggled to find a win. And by the time he had lost every single county except Miami-Dade in the Florida primary, Rubio couldn't avoid the truth: His party's voters had made it painfully clear they did not want him.
So it would take a pretzel-like twist of logic for Rubio to now decide he should still be the Republican GOP nominee after all. Yet Rubio might just be plotting exactly that: a backdoor lunge for the nomination at what promises to be a historically chaotic convention in Cleveland this summer.
That's according to the Washington Times, at least. The conservative-leaning paper laid out a scenario that could still see the junior senator from Florida ascending to the GOP ticket.
Rubio, the paper notes, has been deliberately hanging onto the 171 delegates he won in Minnesota, D.C., and Puerto Rico, as well as other states that didn't have winner-take-all primaries.
“It is my desire at this time that the delegates allocated to me by your rules remain bound to vote for me on at least the first nominating ballot at the National Convention,” Rubio wrote in a letter to the party groups in those states, asking that their delegates remain true to him.
Pundits have cast that move into the larger #NeverTrump movement — by keeping his delegates, Rubio can help keep Trump 171 further away from his magic number of 1,237, which would guarantee an automatic nomination at the convention.
But what if Rubio's aims go beyond stopping Trump? Assuming the Donald doesn't get the automatic nomination, Cleveland's convention will get very interesting. Delegates will be free to gather behind
That's why so many stories have speculated that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan could still emerge as a dark horse in Cleveland. But Ryan has repeatedly insisted he would not accept the nomination after not running at all in the primaries.
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Rubio has made no such pledge. What if Trump misses his magic number and the delegates can't stomach rallying around Cruz on a second ballot? Rubio could be waiting in the wings with 171 delegates already there to build momentum.
If Rubio has considered the move, it might explain why he's been eerily silent since dropping out. The senator finally made his first public appearance Friday to back federal funding to fight the Zika virus, but he refused to talk about the primary.
Rubio's camp has already thrown cold water on the Washington Times theory, though, telling Politico: "We're keeping our delegates. Rest is silly."
Yet this GOP primary has been nothing if not silly. Rubio somehow emerging onto the GOP ticket would barely be the tenth-weirdest thing to happen in this race.