All eyes are on Texas as the five remaining Republican candidates face off Thursday, in the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday.
The candidates will argue their cases in the last national televised event before polls open in more than a dozen states for the March 1st Primary. That day is worth nearly half the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.
And in their final push, political analysts expect to see fireworks on stage at the University of Houston Thursday night.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz is ahead in the state’s polls and he’s got the support of Governor Greg Abbott. “It’s one of the greatest honors of my life,” Cruz said of Abbott’s endorsement.
On Wednesday, Cruz told the crowd several times how happy he is to be back in Texas. Cruz feels at home here, but on stage in Houston, he will probably feel like a target.
“There is a lot at stake here I think that Donald Trump knows he needs to undo some of Cruz’s advantage in Texas,” said James Henson, Director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas- Austin.
Cruz has the home court advantage but Donald Trump has the momentum. After three straight wins, Trump is talking like he’s already won the GOP nomination. “We are winning, winning, winning and next we are going to win the country,” Trump said.
Some political analysts say Trump is unstoppable and they question if Cruz, or the other GOP candidates, can steal the lead from the real estate mogul.
Henson said, “It’s the reality of a race that’s been seriously complicated by Donald Trump’s presence.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Texas is nipping at Cruz’s heels, at 17 delegates, he’s just one behind Cruz.
“So I expected Rubio will also be more aggressive,” Henson said.
Trump has 87 of the 1237 delegates that are needed to win the Republican nomination.
With 155 Republican delegates, Texas holds the biggest prize on Super Tuesday.
“My suspicion is that it’s going to be a war of all against all,” Henson said. “With the race boiled down to three major front runners, everybody has an incentive to try to undo everybody else.”