Marco Rubio to headline Samford University forum Saturday

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Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is set to be the solo headliner at Samford University’s Republican presidential candidate forum Saturday after fellow presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz cancelled.

Three other Republicans in the race, businessman Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson are also skipping the event. The forum is one of the last opportunities for candidates to plead their case to Alabama voters ahead of Super Tuesday next week, when Alabama and a dozen other states hold nominating elections.

Event organizer Yellowhammer News said the sold-out event will still go on as planned, despite Rubio being the only candidate in attendance.

Cruz’s cancellation came down from a political consultant not long after a new poll put out by Birmingham-based consulting firm Master Image showed the Texas senator in a third place among Yellowhammer State voters.

The poll, released Wednesday, put Trump in the lead with 36 percent, followed by Rubio with 19 percent. Cruz got 12 percent support, with Carson taking 8 percent and Kasich landing in last place with 7 percent. About 17 percent of the 1,556 Alabama Republicans polled said they were still undecided.

The poll may foreshadow a disappointing Tuesday for Cruz, whose campaign strategy relies on picking up delegates in the “SEC Primary” states, where evangelicals have a larger role at the polls. The junior senator from Texas had 17 percent support among Alabama Republicans in January, but his numbers had slipped to around 13 percent this month.

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