What began as a battle between two Florida Republican politicians ended in a rout by New York billionaire Donald Trump Tuesday night when he slay the chance of any Floridian winning the GOP presidential nomination this year.
Marco Rubio lost the Florida primary by a landslide and suspended his campaign March 15. Weeks earlier, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out after the South Carolina primary.
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Marco Rubio took 52 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida vs. 27 percent for Donald Trump, according to exit polls.
Hispanics made up 17 percent of the GOP primary electorate in Florida. They made up 20 percent on the Democratic side and went for Hillary Clinton overBernie Sanders by a 72-28 percent margin.
Immigration ranked fourth among Republicans as the top issue (12%), behind economy/jobs (35%), government spending (26%), and terrorism (22%).
By a 53%-38% margin, Florida Republicans believe undocumented immigrants should be offered legal status (54%) instead of deported (38%).
Frank Sharry of America's Voice said Rubio's contortions on immigration reform were "an embarrassment."
"Marco Rubio's cautionary tale is not that he stood up for immigration reform, it's that he didn't," Sharry said on a conference call to discuss the exit polls.
"There are so many Cuban-American Republicans who have had this tradition of standing up for immigration reform, from Mel Martinez to Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and people like Al Cardenas. Rubio running from it was really an embarrassment. He could have stood up and said, 'Look, not only are we going to solve the problem but here are some of the aspects of the bill that I fought for that are very conservative that would have been real instead of all this talk of walls.' He didn't. He listened to his pollsters. ... He had a very confused message that was again trying to be all things for all people and ultimately it became a character issue for him."
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times
The TV cameras lingered briefly on the edge of the stage. Marco Rubio had been introduced moments earlier to delighted applause, but — like a man savoring a celebration — he took an extra second or two to appear.
“Thank you!” he exclaimed once he reached the microphone. He opened his arms wide and flashed one of those big smiles that made his eyes crinkle. “So this is the moment they said would never happen!”
In the weeks to come, the Florida senator would finish second in South Carolina and Nevada, and eventually notch wins in Minnesota, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Yet none of those results would prompt a similar display of triumph from a candidate whose campaign never fully took off.
When it all collapsed Tuesday in his home state of Florida, Rubio blamed his loss on a perfect storm of anger at the modern economy and politicians’ past indifference to working people’s plight.
“We should have seen this coming,” Rubio said. “In 2007 and 2008, there was a horrible downturn in our economy, and these changes to our economy that are happening are disrupting people’s lives. And people are very upset about it.”
He’d had little room for error from the start. Rubio boasted no voter base, no donor base and no clear path to the nomination. He’d disturbed Florida’s political order by running in the same year as former Gov. Jeb Bush — a decision that angered some Bush loyalists so much they branded Rubio “Judas.”
To have a shot, Rubio would need a little luck — and a near-flawless campaign.
Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press
If you missed it last night, here's the speech Marco Rubio gave Tuesday at Florida International University to end his presidential campaign and offer and appraisal of the Republican primary:
As a state lawmaker, Marco Rubio advocated for Florida’s primary to take place early in the presidential-campaign calendar, to give voters in his big, diverse state the kind of importance now awarded to places like South Carolina and Nevada.
But facing the prospect of one or two Floridians running for the White House, the state GOP and its legislators chose to push the 2016 primary to March 15, the first day Florida could award all 99 of its Republican delegates to a single winner. No better way to help the hometown guy, be it Rubio or Jeb Bush.
Now that primary day is here, things look far different. Bush’s campaign is long over. And Florida’s winner-take-all position could wipe out Rubio’s remaining chances if front-runner Donald Trump wins the state’s political prize.
But Rubio told the Miami Herald he’s at peace with the decision Florida’s GOP leaders made.
“The purpose of moving the primary earlier was, the way presidential elections were being decided in the past was in those first few weeks, and by the time it got to Florida in March, it didn’t matter anymore,” Rubio said in an interview Monday. “Obviously in this race it turns out that it matters, and it matters a lot. So I think from Florida’s perspective, it’s meaningful this year as it’s ever been.”
Wouldn’t a proportional race earlier on have helped him more?
“Well, I mean, hindsight’s 20/20,” the Florida senator said. “But had it been earlier, it would have had eight people running here instead of four, and you would have just seen more votes being divided up between Donald Trump and the people that don’t want Donald Trump. And the people that don’t want Donald Trump would have been divided up among seven people instead of three. So I’m not sure it would’ve worked any differently.”
What about fewer weeks of early voting in person and by mail – would that have benefited Rubio?
“The only difference between this and the general [election] is that if you vote early, you may very well be voting for someone who isn’t even in the race by the time you vote,” Rubio said. “And obviously in Florida that’s the case. But the flip side of it is you want to make it as easy as possible for people to vote. And, you know, my guess is when they finally make up their minds.”
“So I’m not sure that would have had an impact. I mean, obviously, you know, Jeb [Bush] is going to have votes in tomorrow, because he was on the ballot, and he was still in the race when the ballot went out. How many, I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald
Marco Rubio began the Republican presidential race as a pesky upstart unafraid to show up his political friend, Jeb Bush, for a shot at the White House. He enters Florida’s primary Tuesday as a short-lived GOP establishment favorite overwhelmed by the popular force of Donald Trump.
Which means Rubio’s candidacy could come to an end in his home state after a wild election cycle that even Rubio, for all his smooth eloquence and political shrewdness, struggles to explain.
“If I were in the position Donald Trump is in right now, everybody in the party would be telling everyone else to get out and rally around,” he told the Miami Herald in a telephone interview Monday. “You’re not going to see that happen perhaps at any point in this primary if Donald Trump continues in the delegate race. So I don’t think this year’s anything like the past — or anything like the future.”
He spoke from his campaign bus, dubbed the Marco Mobile, as he rode from Jacksonville to Melbourne — part of a last-day I-95 ride that stopped in West Palm Beach and concluded in his hometown of West Miami — in a frenzied, final push for Republican votes.
He had launched his candidacy 11 months and a day earlier — a fact he noted in West Palm, where he rolled up his shirtsleeves and struck a reflective tone before a crowd at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“My whole life, I’ve been told, ‘Being humble is a virtue.’ And now being humble is a weakness, being vain, self-absorbed is a virtue,” he said. “Leadership is not inciting people to get angrier. That’s not leadership. You know what it is? That’s called demagoguery.”
Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press
It felt like good-bye.
Marco Rubio's West Miami homecoming Monday night bid farewell to his Florida presidential campaign -- and, perhaps, if he's unsuccessful in Tuesday's primary, to his entire candidacy.
Though billed as a rally, the event felt bittersweet. The crowd of several hundred people outdoors on a beautiful Miami night, was relatively subdued, despite the warm-up Pitbull soundtrack. People revved up once Rubio arrived but then quieted down to hear the candidate. A glitchy sound system forced Rubio to use an echo-y bullhorn from the bed of a gray Dodge Ram truck -- not his own -- parked in front of a massive American flag.
"We are going to win this election," he said in English. Moments later, in Spanish, he amended his comment: "If this community doesn't vote tomorrow in historic numbers, I'm not sure I'm going to win."
He spoke more in Spanish than English, reminiscing about his fast political rise. He stood at the West Miami Recreation Center, about half a mile from his home, in the park where he said he played basketball and met his wife, Jeanette, and down the street from City Hall, where his political story began.
"We're not a community that gives up," he said.
The Florida senator cracked a few jokes, repeating that he'd bring a caja china, or Cuban pork roaster, to the White House, and that its chefs would have to learn to make ham croquetas.
Rubio wrapped up in less than 20 minutes, without his usual build-up ending. He flashed two thumbs up. His supporters dispersed.
A few fans drove through the streets of West Miami, honking their horns.
They came to hear Marco Rubio in West Palm Beach Monday evening -- a little more than 24 hours when his fate could be sealed in Florida.
But with his shirt sleeves rolled up, Rubio didn’t talk about the reality that the polls show him losing his home state to a New York billionaire who has denounced him as “Little Marco.” But he tried to portray himself as more presidential in terms of rhetoric and persona than Donald Trump and implored for the crowd’s help.
“I need your help,” he told the crowd of mostly students the day before the Florida primary. “I can’t win without your help. If I win Florida tomorrow night we don’t just get 99 delegates. We get a surge of momentum that they will not be able to stop.”
Rubio contrasted himself with Trump more in terms of his style and background than on public policy. He repeated his often told story about his humble beginnings -- son of Cuban immigrants who worked as a bartender and a hotel maid.
Rubio said that in the United States people are judged on their merit and worth ethic and “not on what your connections to government are or how much money you inherit” -- a stab at Trump who inherited millions from his father.
Rubio denounced the rhetoric on the campaign trail. Without naming Trump he said that we have a candidate that says at rallies “if someone heckles me and you punch them in face I will pay your legal fees. .... We have a candidate that uses profanity. We have never had a presidential candidate that has to be bleeped out. We have a candidate now leading the Republican primary that we have to explain to our children.”
In a hit on Trump, Rubio said “The presidency is not a reality TV show. It’s not the political version of Survivor.”
One of the only issues that Rubio compared himself to Trump was on Israel. Rubio bashed Trump for saying that he would be “neutral” between Israel and it’s enemies. (Trump has said he thinks as a negotiator he should use a neutral approach lthough he has also described himself as pro-Israel and made an endorsement video for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) Rubio vowed to side with Israel.
Rubio told the crowd that they were choosing what it means to be a conservative.
“Is conservatism in the 21st century defined by how angry you are” is it defined how rude you are willing to be? Is it defined by how angry and vicious you are willing to be against those who don’t agree with you?”
Rubio vowed to deliver on the economy and rebuild the military if the voters give him that chance.
“You give me the chance to be your president I will work every day to make sure we do everything,” he said. “I will be everyone’s president. Everyones. You want to be president of the United States you have to love all of the Americans people -- even the loves who don’t love you back.”
Marco Rubio hopes to score a win in Florida tomorrow -- despite polls consistently showing him losing in a landslide to Donald Trump. Here is the scoreboard from the Palm Beach Atlantic University gym where Rubio is set to speak at 6 p.m. Next he heads to West Miami Recreation Center. Earlier today Rubio spoke in Jacksonville and Melbourne.