Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took swipes Saturday at the Florida home-state candidates against whom he's competing -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- mocking Bush's campaign finances and calling the two Floridians comical for fighting on the 2016 trail. The critiques were delivered during campaign stops in Florida, just a day after announcing his campaign chairpersons for the state.
If Trump is able to beat those two in Florida, it could have an important impact on the 2016 Republican nomination. If he wins in Florida, he will have an edge that nobody may be able to beat.
"If he wins Florida, he is the Republican nominee," Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 McCain presidential campaign, said. O'Connell noted that there are plenty of elections before Florida's voting day, but that the state is a big source of delegates and could decide candidates in a narrow field. "It basically becomes winner-takes-all, and Florida is one-twelfth of all the delegates you need.”
Florida's primary March 15 takes place after "super Tuesday," the nomination day when 13 states decide which candidate their delegates will support. It takes place after the majority of other states have held nominations, meaning that it's highly unlikely that the Republican primary field will be as big as it is now, with more than 10 so-called legitimate candidates seeking the presidency. With nearly 20 million residents, Florida is a big state with a lot of bargaining power in the democratic process.
"My message is clearly resonating in Florida. We have tremendous support from so many great people in the state. I am proud to watch that support grow, to see our team expand and to be leading in the polls here," Trump said in a Friday press release in which he announced that he had hired Joe Gruters and Susan Wiles as co-chairpersons of his Florida operations. "Florida is truly one of the most important states in the election, and it has always been a home to me"
Trump is currently in the lead among Florida Republicans, according to an aggregation of polls by Real Clear Politics. With 24.7 percent of the vote, he is beating Rubio, who is in third and behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by 10 points. Bush trails Rubio in fifth at 12.7 percent. Carson has 16.7 percent of voter support right now.
An earlier version of this story inaccurately quoted Ford O'Connell, the proportion of delegates Florida represents is closer to one-twelfth of the total delegates in the nominating process.