MIAMI, FLORIDA — With the polls closed in Florida, it’s now clear that the Sunshine State senator once dubbed the GOP’s “savior” failed to win his own home state. Marco Rubio lost by a significant margin to hotel mogul Donald Trump.
In the final few days before the Florida primary, as he slid further and further behind Trump in the polls, Rubio kept insisting to his supporters and the media that he still had a chance in the state where he first rose to power.
Late Monday night, he climbed onto the bed of a pickup truck parked on a basketball court in the predominately Cuban neighborhood of West Miami to address a crowd of about 200 devoted supporters.
“I can’t wait to stand on that stage in Cleveland in July and accept the nomination for the Republican Party, and in November I can’t wait to celebrate with the people of Miami as you elect me the 45th president of the United States,” he said, as the crowd cheered and chanted his name. “This community is not the kind who just gives up, and we’re not just going to give up. We’re going to win.”
Yet immediately following this bluster, the once favorite son of Miami switched into Spanish and sounded a note of caution, acknowledging the steep odds he faced. “If you don’t turn out in historic numbers, we’re not going to be able to win.”
Rubio has indicated he will likely drop out of the race after losing his home state. The question then will be whether his supporters will agree to support Trump as the nominee or stay home in November.
CREDIT: Alice Ollstein
Many Rubio supporters in South Florida, who held out hope until the bitter end, told ThinkProgress they hope the young senator makes another attempt for the White House in the future.
“This the first time I’ve been to a political rally in 82 years,” Jose Sanchez told ThinkProgress in Spanish, his tanned, wrinkled face peering out from under a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. “[Rubio] is the ideal leader for me. I love his life story, his values, everything. He’s making me very proud to be Cuban.”
Sanchez, who admitted he is not very well informed on politics, said he feels Rubio is best prepared to run against the Democrats this November. “I lived under communism in Cuba for seven years, so I don’t support the left.”
Other Cuban-Americans at Monday’s rally agreed, telling ThinkProgress their fear of Democratic Party policies overrides their fear of Trump.
“We’re Republicans,” said Elva Ramos, who drove in with her husband Pedro from Naples, Florida. “We have to keep the party together. And there are some things [about Trump] that I like. He tells the truth. He says what others don’t dare to say.”
“The Republicans have always combated communism. They’ve always been tough with it,” Pedro said, adding that President Obama’s upcoming visit to the island had only driven him further away from ever supporting a Democrat.
“My father died in one of Castro’s prisons. Communism totally destroyed our family,” Elva interjected. “Now the Democrats are supporting that dictator. But Marco Rubio will never do that.”
How do you solve a problem like the Donald?
Yet not all Rubio supporters were prepared to line up behind Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee. Gabino Cuevas, a lifelong Miami Republican, said the day Trump wins the nomination, he’s resigning from the party.
“I would rather have no party affiliation, and I think he’ll drive millions of people like me from the party,” he told ThinkProgress. “I find everything he says so inappropriate. And if it comes Trump versus Hillary it’s really two Democrats. One is a racist and one is a corrupt official. If that’s the situation I will write in Rubio or pick a third party, because Trump will have tarred and feathered the party with a label I can’t live with.”
Cuevas, who owns small construction company, told ThinkProgress Trump has made him “really afraid for my country.”
“The ugly, angry mob is running the narrative right now,” he said. “I think a lot of conservative pundits have been running with this anti-establishment narrative and calling everyone a RINO [Republican in name only] and riling everyone up to the point where they’re supporting someone who is not even a conservative.”
CREDIT: Alice Ollstein
Alberto Garcia, who moved to the U.S. from Cuba 15 years ago, also vowed never to vote for Trump. “He’s a fascist. He admires Mussolini. He admires Putin,” Garcia told ThinkProgress in Spanish. “People who support him support the Ku Klux Klan, because he’s a racist. He’s going to create big problems for this country. It’s a disgrace.”
Asked what it says about Florida that the heavily Latino state chose a candidate who has disparaged Latinos over its Latino native son, Garcia laughed. “Hey, that’s democracy. There are always people who are wrong. If you go to Cuba, for example, many people are supporters of the Castros.”
Rubio himself seemed to compare Trump to the Cuban leader who had impacted the lives of so many of his Miami supporters. In pleading with the crowd to get out the vote for him, he warned: “We come from families or from countries that know very well the dangers of putting all your hope into a single person. We cannot fall into the hands of someone who believes he alone should be able to change the world.”
Yet Rubio, who over the last few days has criticized Trump for encouraging violence at his rallies and warned he will “shatter and fracture the Republican Party,” still has pledged to back him this November if he wins the nomination — though he did acknowledge Saturday that doing so is “getting harder every day.”