Marco Rubio Stumps for Primary Victory

Rubio in Seminole
Marco Rubio enters the Seminole County rally to press his case to Florida voters. / Maria Padilla

Fresh off his overwhelming Puerto Rico primary victory, Marco Rubio came to Seminole County to rally voters before next week’s make-or-break primary.

Several hundred supporters, a chunk of them Hispanic, gathered at an Orlando-Sanford airport hangar to hear the Republican presidential candidate speak.

“It always comes down to Florida,” Rubio said, reminding voters of the pivotal role the swing state has played in numerous election cycles, most famously the 2000 presidential election in which the election results remained a mystery for weeks.

As of this writing, Rubio is trailing GOP rival Donald Trump by eight points, down from 20 points, according to Real Clear Politics. Trump held his own rally in Orlando days earlier that was more than 10 times the size of Rubio’s – about 10,000 people. The Florida senator took pains to point out that he needs every vote.

“For the next eight days I’m not saying anything bad about anybody,” said Rubio, who committed a blooper by not knowing that the University of Central Florida was headquartered in the region after rattling the names of other state universities and colleges. “I’m for everybody. I need them all,” he said.

If Rubio doesn’t win his home state, the Miami resident may need to abandon the presidential race and go home. He has won just two of 20 primaries thus far – Minnesota and Puerto Rico, where he nabbed about 71 percent of the vote or 20 convention delegates over the weekend.

“What’s good for Puerto Rico is good for America,” said the son of Cuban immigrants.

Wobbly Triumph

A deeper look at the island’s election results indicate a less than solid triumph. About 38,699 people voted in an open primary on an island with over 2.8 million voters, according to the Puerto Rico Elections Commission (CEE in Spanish). That is a 1.4 percent voter participation rate, significantly lower than the 80 percent or more of voters who routinely cast ballots every four years.

Rubio earned 27,485 votes to Trump’s 5,052, a dismal showing for the GOP front-runner who did not campaign on the island.

What’s more, Rubio got fewer votes than Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary, when turnout was more than three times higher. Romney walked away with nearly 84 percent of the nearly 127,000 votes cast that year, according to the CEE.

It’s unclear whether Rubio’s Puerto Rico victory may transfer to Florida, specifically the I-4 corridor where the state’s Puerto Rican population increasingly is concentrated.That’s because Puerto Ricans in Florida are more demographically mixed, hailing not only from the island but also the 50 states, notably the Eastern corridor of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts – heavily Democratic states.

Puerto Ricans generally tend to be Democrats.

Still, Rubio does count some Puerto Rican supporters. “We got to stop Trump,” said Dennis Freytes, a local Republican activist who earlier in the day held a pro Rubio press conference in Orlando. “Trump is for Trump. Rubio is the voice of reason.”

Peter Vivaldi, who earlier supported former Gov. Jeb Bush but later switched to Rubio, echoed the senator’s sentiment about the Sunshine State.

“After Puerto Rico, Florida is the key state,” Vivaldi said.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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