Rubio’s Last Stand? Candidate Returns to Where His Political Career Began, but Odds of Winning Florida Are Slim

Voters in Sen. Marco Rubio’s home state are casting their ballots today — but nearly all indications say they’ll reject the first-term senator at the polls.

The Florida Republican has long been considered a rising star in the GOP, but he now finds himself fending off a nearly insurmountable challenge on his home turf from businessman and 2016 front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump currently leads Florida polls by an average of 18 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

The Tampa Bay Times has a political obituary-like story today tracing Rubio’s career from his 2009 bid for Senate to the present day, titled “Rise and stall: The political trajectory of Marco Rubio.”

Sen. Marco Rubio campaigns in West Miami on Florida. (AP/Paul Sancya)
Sen. Marco Rubio campaigns in West Miami on Florida. (AP/Paul Sancya)

“The political trajectory of Marco Rubio … has been steady and at times soaring as he reached the top tier of presidential candidates — elbowing a mentor out of the way — but now Rubio’s fortunes are in free fall,” the Tampa Bay Times’ Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary writes. “When the final Florida primary votes are cast Tuesday, he is expected to get beat by Donald Trump, and his future moves to the place Rubio hates most: uncertainty.”

Leary’s story stems from interviews with more than 40 people who know and or worked for Rubio, as well as documents and “more than a decade of journalistic coverage” of the candidate. No one from Rubio’s current staff spoke to the newspaper.

He paints Rubio as ambitious but disloyal to the people who helped him get where he is — and insinuates that this disloyalty partially explains Rubio’s apparent lack of popularity in his home state:

The traits of Rubio’s success, as they often are in politics, make up the foundations of his failings. Impatience. Ambition. Opportunism. Confidence on the campaign trail, indecision in the halls of power.

Once thought to be the most marketable Republican in a crowded field, a young Hispanic candidate who could beat Hillary Clinton and make history, Rubio seems to have few allies to call on.

Sen. Marco Rubio waits to speak during a campaign rally on Monday. (AP/Paul Sancya)
Sen. Marco Rubio waits to speak during a campaign rally on Monday. (AP/Paul Sancya)

Leary also traces the storyline of Tony DiMatteo, a Republican leader in Pinellas County who participated in discussions seven years ago about whether Rubio should run for Senate.

It ends with this cutting detail:

DiMatteo, Rubio’s one-time operative, has already voted. For Trump.

Republicans also go to the polls today in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich is hoping to hold Trump off in his own home state.

Wins in both Florida and Ohio, winner-take-all-states, would put Trump more than halfway to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination.

Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina are also holding Republican primaries today, as well as the Northern Mariana Islands.

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