Marco Rubio has won the Puerto Rico primary and won it resoundingly. Rubio captured just under 74 percent of the vote and will claim all 23 delegates.
This is the Florida Senator’s first primary victory and only the second state in which he has prevailed. The other was Minnesota, which has caucuses rather than a primary.
Does any significance attach to this victory? Well, it’s 23 delegates that don’t go to Donald Trump.
In addition, for what it’s worth, veteran Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens has pointed out that in the history of the modern Puerto Rico primary, every winner has also won Florida. Given Florida’s large Hispanic population, including many Puerto Ricans, this isn’t entirely a coincidence.
Also in the “for what it’s worth” department, a private poll taken for an anti-Trump PAC has Trump leading Rubio in Florida by only 35-30. The poll was conducted by The Tarrance Group, a well-known Republican firm.
Earlier polls showed Trump miles ahead in Florida. However, they were taken before the recent anti-Trump blitz. Moreover, the Tarrance Group poll is consistent with the one taken in late February by Associated Industries of Florida. It found Trump leading Rubio by 7 points, 34-27.
It should be noted that the two polls showing a fairly tight race were both limited to “likely voters” in the GOP primary, as identified through voting history in the Florida’s voter files. The polls showing Trump well ahead ( Quinnipiac and PPP) let respondents say whether they are planning to vote.
Trump has tended to bring new voters into the process and done very well with them. On the other hand, Florida’s primary is closed. Thus, new voters who are independents or Democrats won’t be able to participate. If Quinnipiac and PPP are including them in their samples, their results may be skewed in favor of Trump.
Until recently, Rubio was known for closing fast and winning late deciders. If he can do that in Florida, a 5-7 point lead is far from insurmountable. But has the lead actually been cut to that size?
Much may depend of how Rubio does in the next debate. His relatively weak performance in the last one, during which he was said to be ill, may have contributed to his poor showing on Saturday. He’s capable of much better, as we’ve seen.
So who knows? Maybe as Puerto Rico goes, so will go Florida.
JOHN adds: I sincerely hope so. I haven’t verified the numbers in this tweet, but it was bouncing around this afternoon:
For all the punditry this weekend, delegate count not too far apart, assuming Rubio takes all 23 in Puerto Rico: Cruz 69 Trump 53 Rubio 41.
At this point, Rubio no doubt is an underdog, but rumors of his demise seem to have been exaggerated. Note, too, how Trump continues to fade.
It is good to remember that primary poll numbers are much more volatile than general election poll numbers, for obvious reasons. By the time of the general election, voters are mostly locked in. No matter what happens, I’m not voting for Hillary or Bernie. At the primary stage, on the other hand, most voters are reasonably well disposed toward several candidates, and are more likely to change their minds based on a good debate performance, a catchy commercial, poll results in other states, and so on. So I think the contest on the Republican side is very much up for grabs.