For Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio, Arkansas holds outsize significance since it’s the only one among the states holding their primaries on Super Tuesday which has shown him with a lead in the polls.
This is despite the broad consensus that Rubio is the Republican establishment’s favoured candidate to clinch their party’s nomination.
Joseph Giammo, chair of the department of political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, believes Rubio “needs to win” Arkansas because of the “psychological momentum” that comes with it. Of the three major Republican contenders, he’s the only one without a victory.
While Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is expected to sweep the majority of Super Tuesday states, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has an edge in his home state.
Republican strategist Bill Vickery sees Arkansas as a “three way race”. As for Rubio, Vickery said, “It certainly seems Arkansas is his best opportunity on Tuesday to win a state.”
He added, “Rubio has done an excellent job of trying to build momentum right up to election day. This is his second trip inside about 10 days.”
Watch | Marco Rubio and the ‘three way race’ in ArkansasEmbed-
On the eve of Super Tuesday, Rubio addressed a crowd at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Given how Arkansas could be the closest race, it isn’t surprising that Trump and Cruz too campaigned here this past weekend.
Susanna Samson of the Arkansas Young Republicans said the state establishment’s endorsement for Rubio could generate an extra percentage or two that could make the difference for him.
Rubio knows where his real threat comes from, as he launched a fiery attack on Trump in Conway, about 50 km from Little Rock. “He’s asking you for the presidency of the United States, and if you look at it, he has no policy positions on anything. None. Zero. How can you elect someone that won’t tell you what they’re going to do?” he asked.
A loss in Arkansas will truly hurt Rubio and some Republican analysts do not expect him to last even until March 15, when the primary in his home state of Florida is scheduled. Even there, he trails Trump by over a double-digit margin in recent polling. Arkansas, therefore, may be his last chance to stay relevant in the race.