Florida GOP polls will decide whether billionaire businessman Donald Trump will seal the Republican nomination for president with wins. The primaries will also decide just how far Sen. Marcio Rubio’s campaign will last as voters in five states prepare for Super Tuesday II, according to NBC Chicago.
With Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina also holding Republican and Democratic primaries, Tuesday has more delegates up for grabs than almost any other day on the campaign calendar. Polls show Trump beating Rubio by double digits in Florida, but Ohio is expected to be a closer race.
Buckeye State polls have shown Trump trading the lead with Kasich, while the incumbent Ohio governor holds a slight lead in the polling average. In a last-minute effort to shore up support in Ohio, Trump postponed a Monday evening event at Trump National Doral in Miami to hold a rally in outside Youngstown.
As the Florida GOP polls open, Trump enters the primaries embroiled in one of the biggest controversies of his contentious campaign. The GOP front-runner has encouraged supporters to physically confront protesters at his events and is now facing criticism for encouraging violence after skirmishes broke out at a rally last week in Chicago.
During an event Monday in Tampa, Trump was interrupted intermittently by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed. Trump said he didn’t want to “ruin somebody’s life, but do we prosecute somebody like that?”
The vibe at Trump’s events has deepened the angst over his candidacy in some Republican circles. Rubio and Kasich have suggested they might not be able to support Trump if he’s the nominee, an extraordinary stance for intraparty rivals.
Kasich spent Monday campaigning alongside 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a fierce critic of Trump who has offered assistance to all of the front-runner’s rivals.
“This is the guy Ohio has to vote for, and America’s counting on you,” Romney told the crowd at a Kasich event in North Canton.
While Romney has not endorsed Kasich, he’s said he’ll do whatever is needed to help all of Trump’s rivals. Rubio, despite having the backing of numerous GOP elected officials, appears to have slipped in recent public polls in Florida. The senator tried to stay upbeat Monday, perhaps his final full day of campaigning in the 2016 race.
“Tomorrow’s the day where we are going to shock the country,” Rubio said during a stop in Jacksonville.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest competitor in the race, said Monday that the goal for his campaign was to pick up delegates in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, claiming that he was “neck and neck” with Donald Trump in all three states. Cruz also said his campaign was “surging” in Ohio and Florida, states thought to be longshots for him.
Among the Democrats, leader Hillary Clinton has been itching to look ahead to the general election but continues to face persistent competition from Bernie Sanders. While Clinton maintains a commanding lead in the delegate count, Sanders breathed new life into his campaign with a surprising victory last week in Michigan.
Reprising a theme that helped propel that Michigan win, Sanders on Monday pounded Clinton’s past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s escalated his criticism in recent days, hoping to undercut her edge among minorities and expand his advantage with white working-class voters.
“When it came down whether you stand with corporate America, the people who wrote these agreements, or whether you stand with the working people of this country, I proudly stood with the workers,” Sanders said in Youngstown, Ohio. “Secretary Clinton stood with the big money interests.”
Clinton’s team is attempting to tamp down expectations for Tuesday night, stressing that the race remains close in the Midwest, despite public polling showing her with a sizable lead. Still, she’s eying the general election and escalating her attacks on Trump, saying he’s “inciting mob violence” at his rallies.
“I do hold him responsible,” she said in an interview with MSNBC. “He’s been building this incitement, he’s been leading crowds in jeering protesters”
Following the Florida GOP polls, the campaign next shifts to the West, where Sanders’ advisers have suggested he could rattle off a win streak and enter April with the chance to put a dent in Clinton’s delegate lead.