(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Yellowhammer Presidential Forum at Samford University is still on with Senator Marco Rubio remaining confirmed for the event)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The “southern firewall” Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has been building for months appears to be crumbling under the weight of Donald Trump’s staying power and Marco Rubio’s resurgence.
The Cruz campaign told Yellowhammer Wednesday night they are pulling out of the Presidential Forum set to be held at Samford University in Birmingham on Saturday, and will not be holding any other events in Alabama ahead of election day. Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign, however, reiterated their commitment to the event.
The move is one of the most open indicators to date that Cruz has failed to pick up steam in the Bible Belt South, once believed to be his geographic stronghold and his most likely path to the nomination.
Numerous southern states and almost a quarter of the Republican delegates are up for grabs in the so called SEC Primary on March 1st.
Yellowhammer CEO Cliff Sims said Cruz’s exit from the state so close to election day is unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected.
“Decisions like this are difficult for any campaign to make, but they have to do what they think is best,” he said. “Once a campaign goes into survival mode, sometimes they have to cut their losses and move resources where they can be most effective. A candidate’s time is the most valuable resource any campaign has.”
South Carolina Republican strategist Hogan Gidley said Cruz’s lackluster performance in his home state was the first public sign that Cruz’s southern strategy was not coming together.
“It does definitely put a dent into the manufactured reputation that Cruz is coalescing all conservatives,” he told National Review. “I think we can put an end to that myth.”
An independent poll released earlier this week showed Trump at 36 percent in Alabama, followed by Rubio at 19 percent, Cruz at 12 percent, Ben Carson at 8 percent and Gov. John Kasich at 7 percent.
Senator Rubio is scheduled to be in both Birmingham and Huntsville on Saturday. Donald Trump is scheduled to be in Huntsville on Sunday. No other Republican candidates are currently scheduled to campaign in the state ahead of the March 1st primary.