HOUSTON — Hours before polls closed in Super Tuesday states, Ted Cruz began making the argument that the results of the day's nominating contests should cause some of his presidential rivals to consider dropping out of the race.
"For any candidate that wakes up tomorrow morning who has not won any state, for any candidate who wakes up tomorrow morning who has a negligible number of delegates, I think it's time to start thinking about coming together and unifying and presenting a clear choice," Cruz told reporters here on Tuesday morning after voting in his home-state primary. "I believe it would be an enormous mistake to elect Donald Trump, so I speak to unity for Republicans ... let's come together and stand together."
Cruz brushed off skepticism that his rivals would heed his advice, insisting that they may have a different outlook once the dust settles on Super Tuesday.
"Tomorrow morning, people's assessments are going to be different," Cruz said. "Everyone says on election day that they will be there forever, but elections narrow the field, and we will see today, I believe, the field continuing to narrow."
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.
Pleading for a two-man race with Trump, who is leading the GOP pack nationwide, Cruz insisted the billionaire is currently benefiting from "fractured opposition." The Texas senator nonetheless reiterated his belief that he and Trump are poised to capture the lion's share of delegates at stake Tuesday, when 11 mostly southern states, including Texas, are set to vote in what is being called the "SEC primary."
Cruz is hoping for a decisive win in Texas, partly to press the case against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida that a candidate cannot capture the nomination without notching a victory at home. Public polling shows Rubio trailing Trump by double digits in Florida, which votes March 15. Rubio's campaign, however, has guaranteed a win there, and the candidate was set to spend Tuesday night rallying supporters in Miami.
"There is no doubt that any candidate who cannot win his home state has real problems," Cruz told reporters outside the West Gray Community Center, a polling location near Cruz's residence in Houston.
While Cruz is favored to carry Texas, it is less clear by how much — and what impact record-high turnout will have on his chance. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters Monday night that he believes the the hundreds of thousands of new people participating in the process are doing so to support their home-state senator.
"I think the record turnout is a very promising sign," Cruz told reporters, contrasting it with low turnout on the Democratic side. "People on the Democratic side are underwhelmed by the candidates they've had to choose from."