Republican Donald Trump is eyeing an opportunity to pull away from his rivals on Super Tuesday, a delegate-rich dash across the country that could accelerate their march toward the general election.
The contests come at a turbulent moment for Republicans as they grapple with the prospect of Trump becoming the party’s nominee. Rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are engaged in a frantic effort to stop the billionaire—with Rubio in particular lobbing surprisingly personal attacks—but it was unclear whether they’d made their move too late.
Trump said Tuesday that Rubio should drop out of the race if he doesn’t win any of the Super Tuesday contests.
“He has to get out,” he told Fox News. “He hasn’t won anything.”
“Ted Cruz very rightfully points out, you know, Marco has not won,” he said.
When asked what he thinks about the fact that Marco Rubio is now the candidate favored by the establishment Trump said: “Maybe the establishment has to get out too.”
Trump is seeking to sweep the South, which would be a massive blow for Cruz. The Texas senator, a favorite of the region’s social conservatives and evangelical Christians, expected the South to be his firewall, but now is simply hoping to emerge with a victory in his home state.
Rubio’s goal on Super Tuesday is even more modest. He’s seeking to stay competitive in the delegate count and hopes to pull off a win in his home state of Florida on March 15.
The Florida senator has cast himself as Republicans’ best chance to win in a general election and has received a flood of endorsements from GOP officials after other more mainstream candidates dropped out. But he’s failed to win a state so far, raising questions about his strategy for topping Trump.
Republicans spent months largely letting Trump go unchallenged, wrongly assuming that his populist appeal with voters would fizzle. Now party leaders are divided between those who pledge to fall in line behind Trump if he wins their party’s nomination, and others who insist they can never back him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.