Florida poll: Rubio, Cruz essentially tied

Florida poll: Rubio, Cruz essentially tied

ATLANTA — Marco Rubio’s hopes of winning his home-state primary and denying Donald Trump the lion’s share of Florida’s delegates is looking shaky Thursday with the release of a survey showing him 20 points behind and essentially tied with Ted Cruz.

In a poll conducted for the Florida Times-Union and Florida FOX affiliates, Trump commands 43 percent of the vote while Rubio has 24 and Cruz 21. The margin of error is 4 percent. John Kasich holds 10 percent, and 2 percent remain undecided.

Performing well in Tuesday’s Florida primary is critical to Rubio, one of the state’s U.S. senators. His chance of being a factor in this year’s Republican presidential nomination rests on winning the delegates from his home state in hopes of using them to bargain in a contested nominating convention this summer.

“With nearly 1 million votes cast in early voting, Donald Trump would appear, based on the work of Opinion Savvy, to be the heavy favorite to win all of Florida’s delegates in next Tuesday’s vote,” said veteran pollster Matt Towery. “Trump leads in every region of the state, even in the southeastern area of the state where Rubio started his political career, but there his lead is less substantial than in other areas of the state.”

Trump is winning every age group and has a large plurality among those describing themselves as evangelical Christians.

The survey was conducted by Opinion Savvy by automated telephone calls to 590 likely Republican primary voters. It was done before Thursday night’s debate, which could impact the race.

Trump’s lead has grown in just a matter of days, according to an internal poll Opinion Savvy did Sunday that had him ahead by 14 percentage points. Jumping 6 points in a matter of days shows significant momentum following his primary wins Tuesday in Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi.

Towery also notes that former Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s decision to record a message for robo calls critical of Trump sent to voters across the state is backfiring.

“Florida voters don’t mind an endorsement from leaders within their own state,” said Towery, who now lives in Florida. “Sometimes those endorsements help a candidate, and sometimes they fall flat. But voters here often react negatively to politicians outside of the state who appear to be telling them how to vote.”