Donald Trump trashed Marco Rubio and taunted Ted Cruz Sunday night in West Boca, two days before the Florida primary where the New York billionaire holds a massive lead in the polls.
But Trump directed the crowd to not be complacent and ordered them to vote on Tuesday, but only if they will vote for him.
"Let's not say that we have a 21-point lead because I want you to vote,” he said at Sunset Cove Amphitheater in a Palm Beach County park. “Let's assume we're even. ... Do not vote if you're going to vote for anybody else."
The rally was generally peaceful just days after Trump canceled a rally in Chicago after protesters took over an arena. But in Boca Raton, the scene was far more mellow and resembled a picnic before it began with fans eating hot dogs and chips on blankets and listening to music ranging from the Stones to opera. During the event, a few protesters were escorted out of the rally site by police.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
A few hours before the event, Trump canceled a rally planned for Monday night in Doral to hold an event in Ohio instead.
Trump repeated his familiar labels and criticisms of his opponents. He called Rubio “Liddle Marco” — he spelled it out and pronounced it with a D — and bashed him for missing votes in the U.S. Senate.
“Marco doesn’t vote,” Trump said. “You gotta go vote. You get elected to the Senate, you gotta go vote.”
He called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and accused him of copying Trump’s idea to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’m a better person than the people I am running against, and I’m a better person than Hillary,” Trump said.
The GOP frontrunner ticked off all the groups he says have flocked to his message: Men. Women. Evangelicals. The highly educated and the less-than-highly educated. Hispanics.
“I love that sign!” he called out into the crowd. “It says ‘Hispanics for Trump.’ I love that sign! They do exit polls. I always win with Hispanics which nobody understands but you understand. ... I love the Mexican people! I love the Hispanic people! So many work for me.”
Trump made a series of major promises: He vowed to destroy ISIS, repeal Obamacare and bring jobs back to the United States. He even promised, well, to put Americans in a good mood.
“You are going to be so happy!” he told the crowd of a few thousand.
Trump repeated some familiar falsehoods including “I’m self funding my campaign ... I don’t have anybody’s money.”
A few hours before Trump was due to arrive, about two dozen protesters gathered in a drum circle about a block from the rally site inside the county park. They waved hand-scrawled signs peacefully with messages such as “Dump Trump” and “Facts Stump Trump” and held Popsicle sticks with red hearts attached to the top. Eleven deputies including three on horses stood nearby watching.
“Some of the rhetoric Donald Trump is spreading is very hateful, incendiary and spreads panic,” said Gino Martinez, a 22-year-old student at Florida International University who lives in Miami.
A couple hours before the event started, inside the grounds of the amphitheater someone stood on stage and gave instructions to the pro-Trump crowd about how to handle protesters: “Do not touch or harm the protester.” He told the crowd if they spot a protester to wave a rally sign over their head and yell “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Trump fans described the New York billionaire as a blunt truth-teller.
“He says what a lot of us are thinking relative to borders, the debt ceiling and Obamacare,” said David Ravanesi, a former Marine from Hillsboro Beach. “He’s not afraid of the media.”
Richard Rossi of Pompano Beach held a sign that said: “You get no bull with Trump.”
“Finally someone who can get things done,” said Rossi, a contractor. He said Trump doesn’t have to answer to lobbyists.
Some of Trump’s rallies have drawn attention for protests — most notably the one at the University of Illinois in Chicago scheduled for Friday. When protesters in the arena heard that Trump had canceled the event, it sparked cheers by protesters while other fans yelled out for Trump, leading to some confrontations.
On Saturday, a protester nearly climbed on stage at a Trump event near the Dayton International Airport, prompting the Secret Service to surround Trump. The man was arrested.
Rubio says Trump bears some responsibility for the crowd behavior.
“We have a major presidential candidate that basically encourages people in the crowd to beat up on people that heckle and protest against him. That’s what’s happening, and don’t tell me that it’s not because it is. … The other day a guy sucker-punched somebody at one of his events,” Rubio said while campaigning in Tampa Bay Saturday.
The primary is on Tuesday but about two million Republican and Democratic voters have already cast ballots by mail or at early voting sites.
Polls have consistently showed Trump winning Florida’s winner take all 99 delegates, which would be a blow to Rubio’s campaign. A Real Clear Politics average of polls March 4-11 showed Trump leading Rubio by 18 points.
In the Democratic primary, polls consistently show Hillary Clinton beating Bernie Sanders by a landslide in Florida.
Trump signed off in Boca on Sunday with a reminder to head to the polls.
“I love you! Go vote on Tuesday. I love you. We are going to win. Start the winning.”
Miami Herald politics writer Patricia Mazzei, staff writer Fred Grimm, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.