Marco Rubio insists he can beat Donald Trump in Florida

Mr Rubio has been a disappointment to the Republican establishment 

David Usborne
Tuesday 15 March 2016 04:19 GMT
Marco Rubio has told supporters in Ohio not to vote for him
Marco Rubio has told supporters in Ohio not to vote for him (AP)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


In possibly the last gasp of a campaign that once held all the hopes of Republican Party elders desperate to stop a certain billionaire from New York, Senator Marco Rubio led a final rally in his own Miami neighbourhood, declaring himself confident of victory in Florida’s primary election on Tuesday.

But the Monday night homecoming of the Mr Rubio, after a day of multiple rallies the length of Florida’s Atlantic coast, seemed jinxed from the start. After clambering into the back of a Dodge pick-up truck to address a modest crowd, he grasped the microphone to make his final pitch to voters only to find it wasn’t working. Using a bullhorn instead, he was at times barely audible.

And when it was over, the 44-year-old first-term US Senator eschewed his waiting campaign bus, shiny in black and red, opting instead to go home in a small SUV, surely knowing that he may not see the inside the larger vehicle again. Most political observers believe it would be impossible for Mr Rubio to remain in the race beyond Tuesday night if he indeed suffers a loss in Florida.

Marco Rubio promised to defy the pollsters who put him behind in Florida
Marco Rubio promised to defy the pollsters who put him behind in Florida (Getty)

In politics and especially in this race, no one’s fate is forgone. Yet the polling ahead of Tuesday’s winner-take-all primary were universally cruel to his campaign suggesting that he will be bulldozed into second place. The expected victor is Donald Trump.

“No matter where I go, what I’ll be, I’ll always be a son of this community,” Mr Rubio told his supporters in a brief flash of wistfulness. He summoned enough optimism, however, to proclaim that he still expected to prevail in his state and become the next US president. “I can’t wait until January when I put my left hand on the Bible and raise my right hand in the air,” to be sworn in, he declared.

And few of those who had turned out to see him on the basketball court of a recreation centre were ready to give up on their local man either. “I think he still has a chance,” insisted Rolando Vallavares, 35, a property manager in West Miami, dismissing those who have suggested Mr Rubio erred by allowing himself to get drawn into trading insults with Mr Trump on the trail.”

“I believe he had to do that for a second there, otherwise he would have gotten ‘trumpled’,” he said, deliberately garbling the developer’s name. But Israel Rodriquez, an air conditioning salesman who lives close to Mr Rubio’s home, admitted he thought Mr Rubio had stooped too low to Mr Trump’s taunts. “He got a little too dirty for my side,” he said.

Elected in 2010 to the US Senate on a wave of Tea Party fervour in Florida, Mr Rubio soon emerged as a politician with still greater ambitions. He suffered damage with the conservative base of the Republican Party, however, by joining an attempt in 2012 to pass immigration reform. He backed away from the plan when its toxicity became apparent, but too late.

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