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Was Florida's winner-take-all-primary a good idea?

Published Mar. 15, 2016

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."


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