Why does the so-called Republican establishment favor Marco Rubio for their presidential nominee, rather than Ted Cruz? Both are U.S. Senators, for Florida and Texas, respectively. Both are even of Cuban ancestry.

So why does the Republican establishment believe Rubio is their best chance to stop Donald Trump, if his delegate count is lower than Cruz's?

  • The answer of course is immigration. The establishment's position on immigration is one of uncompromised access to cheap labor, legal or otherwise. Rubio, through the Gang of 8 support, is closer to this than Cruz. That's really the some total of this. The establishment would rather HRC win than lose out on cheap labor.
    – user9790
    Dec 9, 2016 at 12:41

2 Answers 2


There is no evidence that the Republican establishment thinks Rubio is more likely to beat Trump than Cruz. There is plenty of evidence that many in the establishment find Cruz no better than Trump. Some may even prefer Trump to Cruz. Trump at least claims to be in favor of "flexibility" in his positions. Cruz has an actual record of not being flexible.

That said, if you want evidence as to why they might think Rubio is in a better position than Cruz, note that going into Super Saturday, Rubio and Cruz were underperforming by about the same amount. Yes, Cruz had more delegates, but he got them in places where he should have won. For example, Cruz won a plurality of Texas voters. Texas alone gave him a hundred more delegates than Rubio. But Cruz was expected to win his home state of Texas. If Rubio wins his home state of Florida on March 15th, he will make up most of that gap.

Source: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/delegate-targets/

Cruz: 236 of 384 delegates; 148 short
Rubio: 112 of 242 delegates; only 130 short

Alternate source: http://cookpolitical.com/story/9326

Of course, these calculations might look different after today's elections. Rubio may well fall further behind Cruz.

And of course, there is the point that Rubio would probably get more of the Kasich supporters than Cruz would.

Another issue is that it is not evident that coalescing around either candidate will be successful at this point. Some recent polling has Trump defeating either Rubio or Cruz in a two person race. Perhaps both should stay in the race so as to divert delegates from Trump and keep him under the magic number of 1237 delegates (the majority of the delegates to the convention).

Oh, and Rubio is generally considered a better general election candidate. He outperforms Cruz in both polls and in general perception.

Polling source: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_presidential_race.html

  • It doesn't answer the question "Why", it just gives the differences in support
    – user9790
    Dec 9, 2016 at 12:37

RealClearPolitics ran an analysis of R candidates last year. It was mostly centered on Trump and what kind of voters he can attract (it was written during the primaries, but seems to have been amazingly predictive of how even general elections shaped out voting demographics wise).

I can't find the link at the moment, but the author basically indicated that Cruz is a quintessential "ideal/pure" conservative candidate. As such, establishment is largely unfavorable to him, since his more extreme positions and lack of willingness to compromise based on ideological purity diminishes the establishment's power and influence in a variety of ways.

If you aren't willing to make deals to cede something to opposition, that means opposition won't cede things you want to you. Things like porkbarrel spending. Or watered down versions of bills that rank and file party members find abhorrent but that the establishment is willing to live with (from AMA to budgets).

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