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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio struggled to organize in Florida for presidential race, but Senate race is different

15

September

The knock on Marco Rubio ahead of Florida's presidential primary in March was that the home-state Republican senator had ignored the grunt work of opening offices, hiring field staff and energizing volunteers to get his supporters out to the polls.

That's not the reason Rubio says he lost: He blames a string of earlier losses for fading collapsing against Donald Trump. But his Senate re-election campaign has apparently learned its lesson anyway.

Rubio partnered with the Republican Party of Florida to open 17 offices across the state, in a move that frustrated his former primary rival, Carlos Beruff, who slammed the party for playing favorites. They're not Rubio offices per se, but a recent visit to the Miami office showed more campaign signs for Rubio than for any other candidate.

Rick Scott had one office fewer -- 16 -- when he ran successfully for governor in 2010.

The quick field push -- organized hastily because of Rubio's late entry into the race -- has been a matter of necessity. No Florida Republican is relying on any sort of Trump ground operation, as Democrats are doing. Rubio's Senate rival, Jupiter Rep. Patrick Murphy, counts on a network of "coordinated" offices opened with Hillary Clinton's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Florida Democratic Party. Democratic offices vastly outnumber Republican ones in Florida, and Democrats have out-organized Republicans in the state in the past two presidential elections.

Unable to ask Trump for similar support, the Rubio camp says it has more than recruited 500 "active" volunteers and hired 24 field staff who contacted about 400,000 voters either by phone or in person before the Aug. 30 primary. On primary day alone, volunteers and staff made 150,000 calls.

The campaign is expected to roll out local endorsements for the general election in coming weeks -- all in a show-of-force play against Murphy, who has lagged behind Rubio in recent polls.

Down-ballot candidates hope Rubio's campaign organization will lift them up, too: Even if Trump were to lose to Clinton, they say -- and right now the presidential candidates are tied -- perhaps having Rubio near the top of the ticket might stave off a Democratic wave.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2016 8:43am]

    

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