With just five days until Super Tuesday, time is growing perilously short for the Republican “establishment” — whatever that means these days — to stop the Donald Trump train from picking up even more speed. Five days is two fewer than God had to make the world and all its creatures, and if you have looked at Trump’s poll numbers lately, the establishment’s task might seem equally gargantuan.
But there are a couple of places where Trump looks vulnerable. Where? We don’t have polling for every Super Tuesday state, and certainly not enough to drill down beneath state-level data. But here’s one clue: Where is Team Rubio buying TV time? The answer: Virginia, Georgia and Texas. His PAC has splashed out over $1.5 million in these key Super Tuesday states and appears focused on the establishment’s backyard as well — Virginia’s Washington, D.C. suburbs.
According to our most recent polls-plus forecast, Rubio, recently crowned prince of the GOP donor class, has a 43 percent chance of winning Virginia on Tuesday, a slight advantage over Trump. The D.C. suburbs in northern Virginia are home to many who make their living working, directly or indirectly, for the government. Like most large metropolitan areas, the District of Columbia and its suburbs tend to break for Democrats in general elections, but the area has sizable pockets of Republican voters. In 2012, 40 percent of Fairfax County and 30 percent of Arlington County voted for Mitt Romney.
Since Tuesday, a Rubio PAC, Conservative Solutions, has spent $245,430 in the D.C. media market for ads set to air through Tuesday’s primaries. And the PAC has spent over $144,000 in the rest of the state, focusing its buys in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area, along with Richmond. (The Rubio campaign itself has made modest buys in Virginia Beach/Norfolk, though not in the D.C. metro area.)
And in Georgia, where we give Rubio a 29 percent chance of winning (compared with 64 percent for Trump), the Rubio PAC just dropped $455,258 in the Atlanta media market. Hotlanta indeed.
Where else is the money going? Texas — including Houston, Ted Cruz’s fortress of Constitutionalism and cowboy boots. Conservative Solutions spent a whopping $689,302 on ads to air over the next few days in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.
And what about Trump? Not a major ad buy in sight.
UPDATE (Feb. 25, 3:19 p.m.): Rubio’s chances of winning in Virginia and Georgia have been updated to reflect new polls in those states.