Marco Rubio

Florida poll: Marco Rubio should leave presidential race if he loses home state

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks during a campaign rally in Hialeah on Wednesday.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks during a campaign rally in Hialeah on Wednesday. AP

Florida Republicans agree Marco Rubio must win his home state to remain in the presidential race.

Fifty-nine percent think Rubio should drop out if he loses Tuesday's primary, according to a newWashington Post-Univision poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International and the Tarrance Group.

Like other polls released over the past two days, the survey found Rubio lagging behind Donald Trump, 38-31 percent, followed by Ted Cruz (19 percent) and John Kasich (4 percent). The poll of 450 likely Republican voters was conducted in English and Spanish from March 2-5 and has an error margin of 4.6 percentage points.

Republican candidate Marco Rubio told supporters in Hialeah on March 9, 2016 that he plans on staying in the race.

Rubio fares much better than Trump among Hispanics, the poll found. Compared to Rubio and Cruz, Trump is the only candidate Hispanic Republicans in Florida view more unfavorably (59 percent) than favorably (36 percent). And if were up to Hispanics alone, Rubio would be leading the race with 49 percent support, followed by Cruz with 21 percent and Trump with 19 percent. The Florida senator's support is rooted with Cuban-Americans, according to the poll, which has a larger error margin -- 7.6 percentage points -- for the smaller Hispanic sample.

Here’s what matters: Rubio doesn’t appear to have gained ground on front-runner Trump since Super Tuesday.

All the surveys showed Rubio still trailing Trump, in one case by a wider margin than two weeks ago, after Rubio’s second-place finish in the South Carolina primary. Rubio’s campaign insists the gap between the rivals is smaller than some surveys suggest — and surmountable by Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

But the deficit is there.

Quinnipiac University had Rubio trailing Trump 45-22 percent. That’s a 6 percentage-point increase over Quinnipiac’s Feb. 25 survey, which showed Trump ahead 44-28 percent.

“The effort within the Republican Party to stop Donald Trump from winning the presidential nomination appears unlikely to stop him from taking Florida’s delegate-rich winner-take-all primary,” Peter A. Brown, the poll’s assistant director, said in a statement. Up for grabs are 99 Republican delegates.

Associated Industries of Florida, which tracks the race for its members, uses a different methodology and found a smaller gap: 33-27 percent for Trump. But Ryan Tyson, AIF’s political guru, cautioned that “surge” voters who haven’t cast ballots in past Republican primaries may be missing from the tally, underestimating Trump’s actual popularity. In other states, such atypical voters have tended to favor Trump.

As Tyson put it: “These voters will likely not be friendly to the establishment-favored candidates.”

AIF’s different methodology is noteworthy: The trade group identifies likely Republican voters using lists that show past participation in elections. That’s generally considered a more accurate polling method in Florida, where closed primaries ban non-Republicans from casting ballots. Polls like Quinnipiac’s allow respondents to “self-identify” as Republicans, likely counting some people who can’t actually participate in the primary.

But in an election drawing unusual voters, neither methodology might be exact.

A third poll, conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling for Miami Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert using Republican voter lists, showed Rubio behind Trump 42-32 percent.

“It’s clear that Marco Rubio continues to struggle with gaining traction in his home state,” Ulvert said.

FOX News had Trump in front of Rubio 43-20 percent — the most dramatic divide of any poll with respondents picked off a Republican voter list. CNN/ORC, with a relatively small sample size, put the race at Trump ox News March 5-8 poll of40 percent, Rubio 24 percent.

That’s more bad news unlikely to help boost his Florida popularity.