Florida poll: Donald Trump 44%, Marco Rubio 28%
A newly released poll by Quinnipiac University finds Donald Trump overwhelmingly leading native son Marco Rubio in Florida, 44 percent to 28 percent among likely Republican voters. Even with Jeb Bush no longer in the race (though his name is on the ballot), Rubio has an uphill climb in Florida's must-win March 15 primary, although nearly one in three Republicans say they might change their minds, 5 percent are undecided and more than one in five say they definitely would not support Trump.
“Florida is the single biggest prize of the primary season because it is the largest state to allocate its delegates on a winner-take-all basis. If Sen. Rubio can’t win in his own home state, it is difficult to see how he can win elsewhere,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz drew 12 percent support, Ohio Gov. John Kasich 7 percent, and retired surgeon Ben Carson 4 percent.
Florida's March 15 primary could be the last stand for Rubio, who has yet to win any contest and is not favored in any of the dozen states voting next week on "Super Tuesday."
Rubio campaign officials dismissed the Quinnipiac poll, which was taken Sunday through Wednesday -after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the race.
"The FL Q poll #'s are way wrong. We are going to win Florida. Period. Take it to the bank," tweeted Todd Harris, a senior campaign adviser to Rubio.
From February 21 - 24, Quinnipiac University surveyed 705 Florida likely Republican primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Florida holds "closed primaries," allow only registered Democrats and Republicans to vote in their respective primaries, and Brown said that "raises the question of whether the flood of new voters Donald Trump seemed to bring to earlier contests will be able to participate in Florida."
“The size and shape of Trump’s lead is impressive. He leads in every age group by 9 to 19 percentage points. He does better among men than among women and, despite being a New York multi-billionaire, he leads among those who identify with the Tea Party,” Brown added. “He also does twice as well among white evangelicals as does Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trying to make this group his core constituency. A third of likely primary voters say a candidate who is a strong leader is key to their choice and 66 percent of them support Trump.”
The Kasich campaign responded quickly to the poll results with its own campaign spin: "Senator Rubio’s stunning weakness in Florida makes it clear that John Kasich is the only Republican who can stop Donald Trump and win the White House in November."
Ohio also holds its primary on March 15, and a Quinnipiac poll released this week showed Trump leading Kasich there 31 percent to 26 percent. Quinnipiac polls faced criticism this year after it released a poll shortly before the Iowa caucuses that showed Trump leading Cruz. 31 percent to 24 percent. Cruz wound up beating Trump there 28 percent to 24 percent.