Poll: Trump crushes Rubio in Florida
Marco Rubio is getting clobbered by Donald Trump in home state of Florida, where a Quinnipiac University poll shows the frontrunner is polling at an all-time high in the Republican race for president.
Trump's 44-28 percent lead over Rubio reflects the momentum of the New York billionaire’s string of first-place finishes in the last three early state races, and it blunts the Florida senator's argument that he's the only candidate who can defeat the frontrunner in a one-on-one race.
However, later Thursday, the Associated Industries of Florida -- which produces some of the most-reliable surveys in Florida politics -- released a poll showing Trump with a far-lower lead over Rubio, 7 percentage points.
By the time AIF's poll was released, though, Quinnipiac's survey had received greater national attention. Quinnipiac's results give more ammunition to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — running a distant third and fourth in the Florida survey — to say that Rubio should leave the race because they're doing better in polls of their home states than Rubio is in his.
"It’s hard to see how Senator Rubio can win his party’s nomination without winning his home state," said Peter A. Brown, director of the Quinnipiac poll.
“The size and shape of Trump’s lead is impressive,” Brown wrote in an analysis. “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… [and] also does twice as well among white evangelicals as does Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trying to make this group his core constituency.”
Florida is the first, biggest winner-take-all state in the race for delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The primary is March 15, though voting has been ongoing for about two weeks, as more than 250,000 Republicans may have already cast absentee ballots by mail. That might be more than half the number of absentee ballots cast in the GOP race. In all, experts are bracing for 2 million or more voters in the Republican primary.
If Trump wins Florida’s 99 delegates March 15, it would give him a huge advantage. He’s already poised to clean up in the batch of pre-March 15 states where 963 delegates are at stake. It takes 1,237 delegates to win. Of the top three, Trump has 82, Cruz 17 and Rubio 16.
In the early March states, delegates are awarded proportionately, but the winner gets a disproportionate advantage in winning delegates. Many of those states also deny delegates to those who do poorly by failing to get 20 percent or less of the vote. As a result, a crowded field benefits Trump the most so far because it helps him disproportionately win delegates with about 30 percent of the vote, said Sam Wang, founder of the Princeton Election Consortium and an expert on the GOP delegate math.
To give Rubio a boost, the super PAC backing Rubio, Conservative Solutions, announced a major ad buy for Friday that includes the states of Florida, Mississippi, Michigan, Kansas and Idaho.
If the past two elections in South Carolina and Nevada are any indication, Rubio might have more momentum than Cruz. Rubio finished second in both states behind Trump. Cruz finished third. Rubio’s team hopes he’ll continue to outperform Cruz, thereby giving the Florida senator a boost heading into the Sunshine State’s primary.
Rubio, who has avoided taking on Trump as he and the frontrunner have savaged Cruz for being someone for telling “lies,” recently began changing his tactics, criticizing Trump ahead of Thursday night’s debate, which features the top three candidates as well as Kasich and Carson.
With Kasich and Carson in the race, it helps dilute the vote of Cruz and Rubio in many states, potentially dragging the third-place runner below the threshold needed to win delegates, Wang said.
“Kasich is dead weight on Cruz and Rubio. They’ll be pulled below threshold and get no delegates [in some states],” Wang said. “Kasich’s also a drag on Trump. But Trump will not go below threshold.”
Kasich plans to stay in the race and compete in his home state primary March 15. Ohio is also winner-take-all, but it has fewer delegates than Florida, with 66. A Quinnipiac poll this week in Ohio showed Kasich was only losing to Trump by 5 percentage points, leading the governor to chide Rubio for doing worse in Florida. Only Cruz appears to be edging or tying Trump in his home state, Texas.
In the Florida poll, Cruz pulled 12 percent of the vote, Kasich 7 percent and Carson 4 percent. Trump also bests the second-place Rubio when it comes to the issues most important to self-identified Republicans: the economy and jobs, terrorism and immigration.
Brown points out that the poll is just a snapshot in time and that, unlike many other states, Florida has a closed primary system where only registered Republicans can vote.
“Florida election law makes this contest more uncertain than earlier primaries,” Brown said. “Only registered Republicans may vote here, which 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."
Quinnipiac asked its 705 respondents to self-identify their party affiliation, so some might not be registered Republicans. Still, experts say, it’s like not a significant amount and Florida Republican consultants who have been monitoring the race say they expect that future polls will show Trump with a double-digit lead.
The Quinnipiac survey is the first taken of Florida since early February, when a Florida Southern College poll found Trump leading Rubio by just 27-20 percent. That poll had a smaller sample size and larger margin of error, which is 3.7 percentage points for this Quinnipiac survey.
Separately, a Washington Post-Univision survey of Hispanic voters conducted nationally by Bendixen & Amandi International found that Trump is the least-liked Republican among the Latino electorate – a crucial voting bloc. Rubio is the best-liked.
“The GOP has a Latino voter problem and its name is @realDonaldTrump,” pollster Fernand Amandi said in an email Thursday about the poll he conducted.
If the young, bilingual Rubio loses Florida and loses the GOP primary, Florida Democrats like consultant Steve Schale will be relieved. The day before Quinnipiac released its results, Schale expressed doubts on his blog about Rubio’s chances.
“For Rubio - who I continue to contend is the one guy my party really doesn't want to face, the enemy is history,” Schale wrote. "Florida has played the role of validating state for Republicans, and right now, the most recent state polling isn't too far off the national polls, and in fact has shown a slightly higher ‘ceiling’ for Trump. For Rubio, he either needs to make something really happen in the next two weeks, or buck 60 years of history.”
See the poll information here: http://politi.co/1LHNCdM