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Marco Rubio Makes Final Push To Win Florida With Jacksonville Visit Saturday

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Republican presidential candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is pitching his plan for “A New American Century” in Florida ahead of the March 15th primary.

But it’s going to be a hard sell—the latest polls show Donald Trump trouncing Rubio by 30 points.

Fresh off another bruising debate Thursday, Rubio is coming home to try to convince Floridians that he’s their man for the highest office in the land. He'll be at Jacksonville's Morocco Shrine Auditorium at 3800 St. Johns Bluff Road S. at 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mulaney believes reports of his campaign’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

“On March 15th with Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri — they will all be winner-take-all states. Meaning that even though you may be a little bit behind now, that gap can be picked up pretty quickly,” he says. Florida's GOP primary winner will receive all the state's 99 delegates, while Democratic primary candidates will divide up delegates proportionately if they receive at least 15 percent of the vote.

Still, Mulaney admits it’ll be one heck of a fight for Rubio and his Senate colleague, Texas Tea Partier Ted Cruz.

And Rubio may find himself a deeper hole after recently telling reporters Northwest Florida isn’t essential to his victory — something some Panhandle residents resented. But Mulaney says Rubio isn't exactly wrong.

“You know that old expression—‘You rob banks because that’s where the money is'? You kind of go to those large population centers in Miami, the I-4 corridor, North[east] Florida, because that’s where the votes are,” he says.

If Rubio can’t win Florida, Mulaney says, it’ll be nearly impossible for him to win the party’s nomination.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.