Last week, Marco Rubio quietly expanded his presidential campaign to include new state-based advisers. The latest hires, however, were not based in Iowa or New Hampshire but in Alaska and Wyoming, two even less-populated states not known for their political influence.
Historically, a victory in one of the earliest primaries or caucuses has been a must-have to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, and that's not likely to change in 2016. Still, as the field of Republican White House hopefuls continues to grow and no clear front-runner emerges, Rubio and a few other candidates are preparing for the possibility of a drawn-out nomination battle by building campaign teams in smaller, later-voting states that may become unusually important next year.
With so many Republicans running for president, there's a good chance several different candidates will still be in contention by the time the race reaches states like Alaska and Wyoming. Both states are on track to hold caucuses on March 1, the earliest they can do so without incurring penalties from the Republican National Committee. There won't be a huge number of delegates at stake in either Alaska or Wyoming, and they'll be competing for attention with several larger states (most notably, a handful in the South). But even a small number of delegates could prove pivotal in the long run, and Rubio is hoping get a leg up on the competition.