Tomorrow is the biggest day of the 2016 campaign for Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich.
Super Tuesday 3, as it’s been dubbed by cable networks, will decide the states of Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, as well as the Northern Mariana Islands.
For two of the four remaining Republican presidential contenders, it could be their last chance to pick up a sizable chunk of delegates in one fell swoop.
But businessman and front-runner Donald Trump is poised to win both of his opponents’ home states, according to polls — he’s within striking distance in Ohio and leads by a long shot in Florida. Wins in both states would put him more than halfway to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination outright and avoid a contested convention.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich stumped with Sen. Rob Portman and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a last-ditch effort to secure a victory in his home state — where he holds a slim lead despite Trump’s recent string of victories in state after state.
Kasich remains in position to win Ohio, with 40 percent of likely GOP primary voters supporting him compared to Trump’s 35 percent in a Monmouth University poll released today. Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s currently second in the delegate count with 370, is at 15 percent in Ohio and Rubio is at 5 percent.
If Kasich holds onto Ohio, he can keep Trump from picking up the Buckeye State’s 66 winner-take-all delegates.
Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant said last Friday that voters who want to stop Trump should vote for Kasich in Ohio and Rubio in Florida to keep those delegates out of Trump’s hands, a last-minute strategy that could sway some voters to cast anti-Trump votes in Florida and Ohio rather than for their preferred candidate.
In an email to supporters Monday, Kasich’s team said the governor is “on the verge of a major win” in his home state, and reminded voters that “no Republican has EVER (sic) won the White House without winning in Ohio.”
Kaisch plans to hold an election-night party at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
In Florida, a winner-take-all state worth 99 delegates, Rubio has been campaigning almost non-stop. The sitting U.S. senator from the Sunshine State has watched his electoral hopes get slimmer and slimmer — but he promised today that he would fare better than expected on his home turf.
“Tomorrow’s the day when we’re going to shock the country,” Rubio said at a campaign stop Monday. “We’re going to do what needs to be done. We’re going to win the 99 delegates here in Florida and it’s going to give us the momentum we need to go into Arizona and Utah and beyond.”
Tomorrow's the day when we're going to shock the country.https://t.co/JXTXecuaVe
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 14, 2016
But Rubio was much more downcast at a candid press conference on Saturday morning, looking visibly weary when asked if he would support Trump as the eventual Republican nominee.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I already talked about the fact that I think Hillary Clinton would be terrible for this country, but the fact that you’re even asking me that question — I still at this moment continue to intend to support the Republican nominee, but [it's] getting harder every day.”
Rubio’s numbers in his home state are looking increasingly bleak — in the last week, Trump has doubled his lead over Rubio in Florida from 8 percentage points to 17 percentage points, according to Monmouth University.
Rubio plans to hold an election night watch party at Florida International University’s FIU Arena Tuesday night in his hometown of Miami.
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