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New Poll: 'The Donald' Trumps Rubio In Florida

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Donald Trump, right, bests Sen. Marco Rubio, center, and Sen. Ted Cruz in new poll

A poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University shows Donald Trump with a commanding lead in Florida over native son Marco Rubio, with less than three weeks to go before the state primary.

Trump has 44 percent to Rubio's 28 percent among likely Republican primary voters. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has 12 percent with Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 7 percent and Dr. Ben Carson at 4 percent.

Double the number of men back Trump over Rubio, 49 to 25 percent, while women favor Trump 39 to 31 percent, according to the poll.

Still, a lot of likely voters have negative views about Trump. Twenty-One percent of likely Republican primary voters say they “would definitely not support” Trump for the nomination, with 26 percent saying they wouldn't support Cruz and 17 percent saying no to Rubio.

Five percent of Florida's likely Republican primary voters are undecided and 30 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their mind before the March 15 primary.

“Florida is the single biggest prize of the primary season because it is the largest state to allocate its delegates on a winner-take-all basis.  If Sen. Rubio can’t win in his own home state, it is difficult to see how he can win elsewhere,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a prepared statement.

He says strong leadership is the most important quality in a presidential nominee, 32 percent of Florida Republicans say, as 23 percent most want someone who is honest and trustworthy and 20 percent most want someone who shares their values.

“The size and shape of Trump’s lead is impressive.  He leads in every age group by 9 to 19 percentage points.  He does better among men than among women and, despite being a New York multi-billionaire, he leads among those who identify with the Tea Party,” Brown added.

“Florida election law makes this contest more uncertain than earlier primaries," said Brown. " Only registered Republicans may vote here, which raises the question of whether the flood of new voters Donald Trump seemed to bring to earlier contests will be able to participate in Florida.”

Quinnipiac University surveyed 705 Florida likely Republican primary voters with a margin of error of just under 4 percentage points.

Some takeaways from the poll:

  • Trump also does twice as well among white evangelicals as does Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trying to make this group his core constituency.
  • A third of likely primary voters say a candidate who is a strong leader is key to their choice and 66 percent of them support Trump.”
  • Trump is the choice of 66 percent of Florida likely Republican primary voters who most want a candidate with strong leadership, with only 16 percent for Rubio.
  • Rubio leads Trump 39 – 29 percent among Republicans who most want someone who shares their values.
  • Rubio and Trump are tied 30 – 30 percent among those who most want a candidate who is honest and trustworthy.
  • The economy and jobs is the most important primary election issue, 31 percent of Republicans say, with 18 percent citing terrorism and 14 percent listing immigration.
  • Trump tops Rubio 51 – 28 percent among voters who list the economy and jobs as the most important issue, 44 – 34 percent among those who cite terrorism and 66 – 12 percent among those who say immigration is most important.

Florida's presidential primary will be held March 15.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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