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To:          Team Marco and Interested Parties
From:      Terry Sullivan, Rubio Campaign Manager
Date:       February 21, 2016
Subject:  Takeaways From The South Carolina Results

South Carolina’s results reflect the overall strength of Marco’s candidacy, campaign, and message for the country. It also demonstrates his resiliency as a candidate, with an ability to mount a comeback in a crunch. After a setback in New Hampshire, Marco went into South Carolina with a determination to ensure that his positive vision for a New American Century was shared with people all across the state. The results show that Marco was heard loud and clear by South Carolinians. In the last week, we were buoyed by a strong debate performance, great earned media, and powerful endorsements.
In the weeks ahead, we stand to benefit from a conservative movement and party coalescing around Marco’s candidacy like we saw in South Carolina, as leaders like Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, and Representative Trey Gowdy as well as numerous state, local, and grassroots leaders united behind him. Today, Marco makes stops in Tennessee and Arkansas as we end the day in Nevada ahead of the caucuses there. To date, only 4 percent of the delegates have been allocated. As I’ve said repeatedly for months now, this is going to be a long delegate fight and we have a candidate and a campaign built to prevail.
Here are 9 key takeaways from last night:
1) This is a three-man race: As we said after Iowa, this is now and will remain a three-man race for the Republican presidential nomination. As the field consolidates, polls have shown that Marco benefits the most. We have always been the candidate with the most room to grow, unlike Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. He is consistently the second choice of voters who support other candidates and has the highest favorability of anyone in the race.

2) Marco is the strongest candidate in the race: Marco rebounded from a disappointing result in New Hampshire. In total, he faced $10.4 million in negative advertising and a wave of dirty tricks from his opponents in South Carolina. Despite all of that anti-Marco spending, their attacks did not break through. According to exit polls, Marco actually won amongst those who preferred their next president have political experience with 36 percent of the vote. Going forward, Marco’s favorability remains strong and he has broad appeal across all elements of the conservative movement and Republican Party.
3) Like Iowa, we built a strong ground game and seldom talked about it: Over the last few months, the campaign built a strong ground game in South Carolina. In the last week at our four offices in the state, our team of staff and volunteers made 20,000 calls per day. Through our on-the-ground operation, digital effort, and data operation, we surpassed our total vote goal and even over-performed in the Upstate. Unlike other campaigns, our field organization is built for success in all 50 states, not just one or two.
4) Voters know Marco is the candidate who can defeat the Democrats: For those who said winning in November was their top candidate quality, Marco won with 49 percent. Marco is consistently the only Republican to beat Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polls.
5) South Carolina was made for Ted Cruz and he fell short: If Ted Cruz can do no better than third place in a state like South Carolina where 73 percent of the electorate described themselves as “born-again or evangelical Christian,” where else can he win? As Fox News described it, the “big distress signal for the Cruz campaign” was the split of the evangelical vote with Donald Trump. Marco himself took a significant part of the vote. As Erick Erickson noted, “with that ground game and that evangelical turn out, why is Cruz at that level?” The Cruz campaign ultimately touted making 50,000 calls per day and knocking on 7,000 doors per day. And yet, as Fox News’ Carl Cameron noted, Cruz’s “ground game doesn’t appear to have materialized” in South Carolina.

6) Ted Cruz will truly say anything at all to get elected and ran the nastiest campaign South Carolina has ever seen: In South Carolina, Senator Cruz continued his campaign of lies, falsehoods, and under-handed tactics that first began in Iowa with false rumors about Ben Carson. Just in the past week, we saw the Cruz campaign and their allies unleash a wave of lies about Marco’s record, false rumors that Marco was dropping out, anonymous push polls, outrageous robocalls in both English and Spanish, fake Facebook posts, personal insults directed at popular South Carolina leaders, and ads that had to actually be taken down. 

7) Ted Cruz’s dishonest tactics have left him with permanent damage:  According to exit polls, 32 percent of voters thought that Senator Cruz ran the most unfair campaign. What Senator Cruz did in Iowa to Ben Carson and tried to do to Marco Rubio in South Carolina will continue to echo through this race. National Review’s Alexis Levinson captured this when she wrote today:

But one of the more problematic upshots of the past ten days for Cruz could be that it has crystallized a new line of attack that will continue to dog him as he moves on: the perception that he is a “liar” campaigning on a dishonest premise.

As we saw in South Carolina, Senator Cruz’s willingness to say or do anything in order to win an election does not wear well on voters.

8) Donald Trump has a ceiling: Donald Trump’s electoral ceiling is in the mid 30s. He has the highest negatives of any candidate by far and the most voters who say they would refuse to vote for him. Simply put, Donald Trump can never get to 50 percent and only will continue as a frontrunner as long as the field is crowded.

Looking ahead…
9) John Kasich has no path to the nomination:  Looking ahead, the process for awarding delegates in March states shows that Marco is positioned to end the month with a solid delegate count, while the path for winning the nomination for John Kasich looks unrealistic given the threshold requirements in most states. With the current state of the race, Kasich is currently not in contention for 81.7 percent of the delegates awarded during the week of March 1st. He hasn’t shown any ability to appeal to voters outside the very small moderate/liberal subset of the Republican primary electorate. He has fewer resources, lower name ID and less national infrastructure than Jeb Bush, who last night determined there was no path to the nomination.