WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump wins Republican presidential primary in Louisiana, his 11th state win in the 2016 race for president.
Trump savages Rubio at Florida rally
GOP front-runner moves to end the senator’s 2016 run.
Donald Trump wants to make sure Marco Rubio’s campaign ends in the same state where it started.
At a rally that saw the businessman leave the podium to stare down a group of protesters and attempt to lead supporters in a pledge of allegiance to him, Trump unleashed the first salvo in a 10-day campaign to finish off Rubio by defeating him in Florida’s March 15 primary.
Calling the Florida senator an “idiot,” Trump portrayed Rubio as beholden to his donors and said voters here should reject Rubio for neglecting his day job.
“What does he do with all his free time? He’s got the highest delinquency record in the United States Senate in many, many years,” Trump said. “That is not the kind of person you want representing Florida. That’s not the deal you made.”
Florida, which awards all of its 99 delegates to the statewide winner, will be a critical contest in determining both Rubio’s ability to stay in the race and the Republican anti-Trump faction’s ability to deny the front-runner a clear majority of delegates ahead of the national convention in July.
“If we win Florida, believe me, it’s over,” Trump said.
Rubio faces a daunting up-hill battle to win his home state. While a poll released Saturday by the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC showed the senator just five points behind the New York billionaire, surveys released by partisan groups are considered less reliable. That poll, though, was conducted by the Tarrance Group, a highly respected GOP firm, and resembled a recent survey from Tel Opinion Research that had Rubio trailing by seven. Recent public polls showed a double-digit gap.
Meanwhile, Rubio’s campaign in the state only began in earnest in recent days, and Ted Cruz has opened 10 field offices here this week in a bid to make Rubio lose Florida and force him from the race.
For Trump, the focus on Rubio, who is polling second here, is both strategic and personal. The businessman took special umbrage at the Florida senator’s jibe that Trump has small hands.
“He even complained about my hands,” said Trump. “Look at those hands” he said, holding them up for the crowd.
“I mean give me a break okay. Where did he get that one? That was the first,” Trump said, trailing off. (Trump has said that no one had criticized the size of his hands before Rubio but former Spy Magazine and current Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has long referred to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” to the businessman’s enduring aggravation.)
The celebrity and real estate developer said supporters in recent days have assured him that Rubio is wrong. “Gee whiz Mr. Trump you actually have large and powerful hands,” Trump recounted people telling him.
The rally was interrupted by several protests, include one that broke out among several young men in the seats behind the stage over Trump’s right shoulder. Trump strode several steps away from the podium and toward the men, staring them down as security personnel removed them from the CFE Arena.
Later, Trump attempted to lead his supporters in a pledge that they would vote early for him. Instructing supporters to raise their right hands and repeat after him. Trump said: “I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever … will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president.”
Before Trump took the stage, a half-dozen speakers hammered Rubio’s record in the harshest possible terms.
Several focused on a hot-button local issue, the 2014 layoffs of 250 American Disney IT workers, who were then asked to train their foreign replacements, who came to work on temporary H-1B work visas.
Sara Blackwell, a lawyer who has represented the workers in a suit against Disney, said Rubio “has actually been one of the largest supporters of bringing in these foreigners. He actually said there’s not any qualified Americans to do this job.”
After Blackwell, two of her clients spoke. One of them quoted a Rubio staffer, who told the New Yorker in 2013, “American workers can’t cut it.”
“Shame on you, Marco Rubio,” said the former Disney employee.
Next, the mother of a young man killed by an undocumented immigrant described her son’s murder in gruesome details. “I support Donald Trump over Marco Rubio because Mr. Trump is not afraid of telling it like it is,” she said.
Stephen Miller, a Trump adviser and former aide to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, urged attendees to “Make Florida Marco Rubio’s Waterloo.”
“Send a message that a man who sells himself to a lobbyist in exchange for political favors will never get a single Florida delegate,” he said.
Miller led the crowd in chants of “No-show Marco,” slammed the senator as “a supporter of unlimited Muslim migration into this country” and called him a “wholly owned subsidiary” of corporate interests.
The mere mention of Rubio’s name repeatedly elicited loud jeers. In between speakers, Trump’s state chair, Joe Gruters, promoted “#StopTheEstablishment,”
And if the establishment stops Trump instead? The billionaire said a nominee other than him is the “last thing” his supporters would accept.
“There would almost be a revolution,” he said. “They’re talking about serious, serious, serious problems.”