Jeremy Lott

Can Marco Rubio go the distance?

Can Marco Rubio go the distance?
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Texas Senator Ted Cruz is running scared.

The other week, he apologised to Dr. Ben Carson but refused Carson's pleas that he discipline his staff for suggesting to Iowa caucus-goers that the neurosurgeon had dropped out of the running for president.

On Monday, Cruz fired communications director Rick Tyler for distributing a video with bad dubbing that suggested Marco Rubio was mocking the Bible. In fact, correct transcription showed the Florida senator and fellow Republican presidential hopeful praising the Good Book. The episode suggesting a candidacy in trouble.

In campaign speak, Cruz “underperformed” in the South Carolina primary Saturday. Though he lost out for second place by about 1,000 votes of three quarters of a million votes cast, he didn't win a single county. This was the state where he was supposed to give billionaire Donald Trump a run for his money.

Marco Rubio, who finished second above Cruz on Saturday, probably owes his over-performance to a divinely inspired fluke. On Friday, a man passed out at a Rubio event and was in need of serious medical attention. Rubio not only curtailed his talk, he had everyone bow their heads and pray for the man in that quite religious Southern state, with the cameras rolling. That worked.

Nevada may not have as many Bible thumpers, but it has Mormons. Nevada Senator and Senate Minority leader Harry Reid is an LDS convert. Rubio briefly converted to Mormonism in his childhood and is still viewed by many as Mormon friendly, which can't hurt him.

After months of stalling, Rubio finally has real momentum. Expectations are very important at this point. The final Gravis poll of Nevada, released last Thursday, had Trump at 39 percent, Cruz at 23, and Rubio in striking distance, at 19. My expectation is for Rubio to catch Cruz tonight. Most observers agree that Trump is going to win, but if Rubio can take second, he can finish off Cruz by showing him up twice in a row.

Hundreds of political endorsements would flow to him at that point, almost certainly including the still popular former nominee Mitt Romney.

Soon enough, that would mean getting the Donald into a one-on-one cage match. Many political oddsmakers would put money on Rubio at that point. Tonight could mark beginning of the end for Donald Trump's candidacy.

Jeremy Lott writes from Washington state.