PAHRUMP, Nev. — Ted Cruz on Sunday brushed aside his disappointing finish in South Carolina and said he remains the only viable obstacle to Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination.
The Texas senator said his campaign is better positioned than Marco Rubio's to do well in Tuesday's Nevada caucuses and the large block of states that vote in March and could determine the GOP nomination outright. Cruz won Iowa while Rubio hasn't won anything. But after finishing less than 1 percentage point behind second-place Rubio in South Carolina, Cruz has faced just as many questions as the Floridian about his path forward — if not more.
Cruz tried to reframe the narrative of the race during a news conference here, just before a campaign rally with about 300 potential caucus goers who gathered in the parking lot of a motel and restaurant in the sparsely populated, rural desert Nye County.
"It was striking this morning. Each of us did a number of the Sunday shows this morning. And, on one of them — on ABC, George Stephanopoulos — Sen. Rubio was right before me on that show, and he was asked, what state did you win? You weren't able to win in Iowa, you weren't able to win in New Hampshire, you weren't able to win in South Carolina; when can you win a state?" Cruz said.
"The answer he gave was, he said: 'I think we can win Florida on March 15,'" Cruz continued. "Now, that's a fairly amazing admission they don't believe they're going to win here in Nevada. Apparently they don't believe they're going to win any states on Super Tuesday.
Trump, the New York celebrity businessman, won New Hampshire and South Carolina, and enters Nevada the favorite to capture the caucuses despite having virtually no ground game, compared to organized teams fielded by Cruz and Rubio.
Ironically, both senators make the same argument when asked how they knock off Trump. Basically, they say, 70 percent of the Republican Party opposes the billionaire reality television star, and with the candidate field narrowed considerably post South Carolina, GOP voters will coalesce behind their candidacies in the contests to come. For Cruz, that work began Sunday in Pahrump, a retiree-heavy community of 40,000 in the Nevada desert that leans libertarian.
At least one potential caucus-goer, Chuck Hoover, 71, said hearing Cruz in person convinced him to vote for him. Hoover had told the Washington Examiner before the rally began that he was deciding between Cruz and Trump. As Hoover was leaving, he said he had decided to support Cruz.
"His consistency, what he said was things I believe in, talking about the Second Amendment, immigration, Obamacare, stuff like this. He has a proven track record," Hoover said. "Trump — I like a lot of the things he said, but I just don't trust the guy."