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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio votes early in Florida primary -- for himself

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, pictured with his wife, Jeanette, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, arrives for early voting Wednesday at the West Miami Community Center.

Patricia Mazzei | Miami Herald

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, pictured with his wife, Jeanette, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, arrives for early voting Wednesday at the West Miami Community Center.

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March

Marco Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, hopped out of a black SUV Wednesday morning and stepped into the community center in West Miami, the city that launched his political career.

They were there to vote early in Florida’s Republican presidential primary — and to show a confident face the morning after Rubio’s lackluster Super Tuesday.

He won a state, finally (Minnesota) but rival Ted Cruz took three (Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska) — keeping divided the GOP field of candidates not named Donald Trump, as Trump carries on triumphant. That’s left Rubio and Cruz talking not of defeating Trump in elections but of denying him a majority of delegates in July’s nominating convention.

“You know, last night was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s night. We beat him in half the states on the ballot,” Rubio said. “We won the state of Minnesota. We picked up a lot of delegates, and we feel great about what the map looks like now, moving forward — especially here, when we get to our home state of Florida.”

Candidates typically make a big deal out of voting early, in an effort to persuade their supporters to do the same. But Rubio’s campaign gave little public notice of his vote, and the Florida senator didn’t make any pleas to voters to emulate him.

Instead, he called Wednesday “very special.”

“Literally, standing right outside in this sidewalk is where my career began in elected office,” he said. “So it’s an incredible privilege and honor to be able to vote for myself for president, just a few blocks from where I grew up.”

He received a hometown welcome, with former West Miami Mayor Rebeca Sosa, who’s now a Miami-Dade County commissioner, waiting for him on the sidewalk and holding his and his wife’s hands on the way in the door. (“Remember when we were here for the first time?” Sosa reminisced.) A campaign aide rushed behind them waving Rubio’s wallet, which contained his driver’s license ID.

Rubio hugged and kissed hello several longtime West Miami staffers, including City Manager Yolanda Aguilar, though he couldn’t stay long because he had to catch a plane to Michigan, the site of Thursday night’s upcoming debate.

He’ll be back soon, he promised, to the state where he’s lagging behind Trump in polls: “It’s my home, and we’re going to win Florida,” Rubio insisted.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 12:06pm]

    

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