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Rubio To Rally In Pensacola As FL Primary Looms

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Marco Rubio brings his presidential campaign to Pensacola Saturday night, three days before the Florida Republican primary.

Offering 99 delegates in a winner-take-all format, Florida is crucial for all Republican candidates. But it’s a must-win for Rubio, who’s taken only Minnesota and Puerto Rico. On Tuesday, he finished last in Mississippi and Michigan; and third in Idaho and Hawaii.

“So here we are; it always comes down to Florida, doesn’t it?” Rubio told the crowd at a rally in Miami Tuesday night. “And it will again this year, not once but twice.”

Many observers on the outside of the four Republican campaigns do not share Rubio’s optimism.

“The best thing that can happen to Rubio is that he wins Florida. But I think that, not long after, he’ll drop from the race,” said Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

“The only question is, can he pull off a surprise win in Florida?” said Zelden. “The polls say no, but then again the polls said that [Hillary] Clinton should have won [the Democratic primary in] Michigan easily. So you never know.”

One thousand, two hundred and thirty seven  delegates are needed to capture the Republican nomination. So far, Donald Trump has garnered 458; Ted Cruz has 359, Marco Rubio 151 and John Kasich 54. Zelden says Rubio needs to make the point that Republicans have to keep Trump from carrying the party’s banner into November.

The latest Monmouth University poll shows Trump with an eight percentage point lead over Rubio, 38-30%. Cruz is third with 17% and Kasich brings up the rear at ten percent. The numbers were not lost on Rubio Tuesday night.

“I believe with all my heart, that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party,” said Rubio, speaking at a rally Tuesday night in Miami. “And so you are given an incredible task.”

Rubio does better downstate, according to the poll, while Trump’s the favorite in central and northern Florida. The latter could be a reason that Rubio is coming to Pensacola, three days before what’s considered the make-or-break vote.

“The Panhandle is the place where he’s most likely to lose votes either to Trump or to Cruz,” Zelden says. “He’s made his pitch to south Florida, and he’s making his pitch to the I-4 Corridor. But they do him no good if he wins there but loses the Panhandle, which – despite its lower population in general, has a much higher proportion of Republican voters.”

If Rubio drops out of the race whether he wins Florida or not, Zelden says don’t look for his name to be bandied about at the convention in Cleveland as a possible running mate.

“No, there’s too much bad blood at this point,” said Zelden. “Cruz truly despises Rubio and Rubio despises him. And Trump has made too much fun of Rubio to bring him on the ticket. This was an ‘all-or-nothing’ for [Rubio], and unfortunately, it’s going to be a nothing.”

Sen. Marco Rubio will be at the Fish House Restaurant Saturday evening at 7:00. The public is invited to stop by.