Cruz, Rubio and Kasich all face must-wins in home states

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In their efforts to derail brash billionaire Donald Trump from the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are all facing enormous pressure in their home state primaries, which account for about a fourth of the available delegates in the next three weeks.

Collecting enough of those delegates is essential in getting the party's nomination this summer. It takes 1,237 delegates to capture it.

After Trump's impressive win in Nevada on Tuesday, the presidential race now shifts to Super Tuesday, featuring 11 largely Southern states, including Texas, with 155 Republican delegates. Those delegates will be awarded proportionally. On March 15 are primaries in Florida, with 99 delegates, and Ohio with 66, and they are winner-take-all.

If no one can dent Trump's advantage by then, the race for the nomination may be all but over. But home states have helped candidates in the past.

Cruz may be in the strongest position, but he will have to win more than just Texas on Tuesday. Kasich and Rubio, meanwhile, may be battling for many of the same votes from traditional Republicans uneasy with the bombastic Trump and the firebrand conservative Cruz.

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FLORIDA

Current and former members of Congress from Florida who had been backing Jeb Bush signed on with Rubio this week after the former governor left the race. That's not to say Rubio faces certain victory.

Trump is the only Republican still in the race who had an obvious campaign presence in Florida, with office space and paid employees on the ground, as of late last month. Trump is a part-time resident.

Cruz strategist Jason Johnson released a memo arguing that if Rubio's hopes are built around winning Florida, that won't work because almost half of the delegates needed to win the nomination will have been awarded by then.

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TEXAS

The Texas senator has spent more time in the South than his rivals and built networks of supporters in Texas and nearby states. That approach did not work in South Carolina, the only Southern state where it has been tested.

Cruz has for years been considered his state's most popular politician, and Gov. Greg Abbott, his friend, mentor and former boss, endorsed him on Wednesday. He also has the backing of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, along with nearly one-fourth of the Republicans representing Texas in Congress.

Texas may not have a decisive winner unless the top candidate can get a majority of the votes cast statewide and in each congressional district. Otherwise, delegates will be awarded proportionally based on full-state results and results in each district.

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OHIO

Kasich is looking to the Midwest and Michigan's March 8 primary to help carry him through to his neighboring home state a week later. His bid for the nomination is already a long shot, and whatever viability he might have surely would vanish if he falters in Ohio.

A new Quinnipiac survey has Kasich lagging Trump but within 5 percentage points of him, marking progress for the governor.

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Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writers Alex Sanz and Bill Barrow in Atlanta and Julie Bykowicz and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

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