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Politics / Issues

Marco Rubio In Tampa Vows To Stay In Race

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Steve Newborn
/
WUSF News
Marco Rubio speaks at the Tampa Convention Center

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 people at the Tampa Convention Center Monday night, vowing not only to stay in the race for president, but saying he's the only Republican candidate who can beat front-runner Donald Trump.
"A vote for John Kasich or a vote for Ted Cruz in Florida is a vote for Donald Trump," he said. "I'm the only one who has any chance of beating Donald Trump in Florida. So if you don't want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee, you have to vote for Marco Rubio."

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
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WUSF News
Rubio speaks to the media before his speech

Marco Rubio In Tampa Vows To Stay In Race
Click here to listen to Marco Rubio's full speech at the Tampa Convention Center

Rubio acknowledged he's an underdog. He’s won just two of more than 30 contests so far, but says he feels "optimistic" about his chances on the March 15 Florida primary.

Polls heading into the final week have Trump with a commanding lead in Florida, but one recent poll had Rubio creeping up to within eight percentage points.

Before his speech, Rubio brushed off a question about whether he would stay in the race if he loses to Trump during the Florida primary.

"We're going to win Florida. We're going to have to work hard - we're an underdog - I acknowledge that - but I feel good about the progress we're making every day and I feel very optimistic about it," he said.

After the speech, Robert Huey of Apollo Beach said he liked what Rubio had to say, particularly about veterans. He served in the military himself, and says Rubio needs to rise above the name calling at the recent Republican debates.

"Stop, really, some of the antics that are going on at the debates," he said. "He shouldn't lower himself to that. And I think he probably learned his lesson last Thursday night."

Averill Massey of New Tampa came to the Tampa Convention Center to hear Rubio - even though she's a Canadian citizen and can't vote. She came because her husband and sons are American citizens.

"My parents were immigrants to Canada, and his parents are, and I resonate with that. I believe that he's sincere in his conservative values, and his belief in America and what it can be again resonates with me - even though I'm not (a citizen)," she said.

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
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WUSF News
Rubio's bus passes the Tampa Convention Center