How Harry Potter can explain Marco Rubio's path to the GOP nomination

Marco Rubio
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a campaign rally Feb. 23 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis.
Jim Mone | AP file

If Marco Rubio ends up with the Republican presidential nomination, it could be because he played Quidditch better than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Stick with us for a second.

Last week, a Rubio-affiliated SuperPAC sent out a (much-derided) fundraising email comparing Rubio to fictional boy-wizard Harry Potter. As Politico first reported, the group's argument boiled down to an analogy that Donald Trump was like the Potter villain Voldemort, and the other Republicans in the race were functioning as horcruxes, objects that Voldemort uses to give himself near-immortality.

"As each horcrux was destroyed," the group wrote, "Voldemort became increasingly vulnerable, not increasingly strong. When all of the horcruxes were gone, Voldemort lost his one-on-one battle with Harry Potter."

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Now, as all Harry Potter fans know, this analogy made no sense. thoroughly debunked the SuperPAC's email shortly after it hit the Internet.

But there's another aspect of the Harry Potter universe that does apply to Rubio's campaign — the wizarding world's most popular sport: Quidditch.

In Quidditch, teams can score points two ways. They can hit the quaffle through the hoops at either end of the field, like scoring a goal in soccer, for 10 points at a time. That's what the bulk of the players on each team are trying to do as they ride their brooms up and down the pitch.

But each Quidditch team also has one seeker, whose main goal is to look for, and catch, the golden snitch — a small golden ball with wings that is very hard to catch. This was Potter's job. A snitch catch is worth 150 points — far more than any quaffle strike. What's more, it ends the Quidditch match. While a team could technically catch the snitch and lose, that hardly ever happens.

Confused? Let Gryffindor keeper Oliver Wood explain it to you:

So what's this have to do with the Republican presidential primary? Well, in the Rubio campaign's latest thinking, early states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada are quaffles. They provide delegates proportionally, for the most part, to the winners, but also to many of the losers.

You're not going to win or lose a Quidditch game on 10-point increments, and you're not going to win or lose the nomination based on Nevada.

The Rubio campaign is not expected to win anywhere on Super Tuesday. It's just circling the pitch like Potter and other seekers, waiting for the golden snitch to appear.

So what's the snitch in the GOP primaries?

It's the collection of winner-take-all primaries that begin on March 15 with Rubio's home state of Florida.

He and his campaign aides are arguing that as the GOP field narrows, and as more and more Republican leaders rally around Rubio in an attempt to beat Trump, he can quickly make up delegate ground with wins in Florida, Ohio, and other big winner-take-all states.

It's a high-risk strategy for sure. But hey, Quidditch is a risky sport.

This theory and other reality-based Super Tuesday observations are hashed out in the latest NPR Politics Podcast.