ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida’s first Sunshine Summit drew all the big-name Republican candidates and large crowds as the first presidential primaries draw near. The day started off with speeches from Senator Marco Rubio and ended with Donald Trump and Ben Carson taking the stage. Immigration proved to be the hot topic of the day.
“I’m puzzled and quite frankly surprised by Ted’s attacks since Ted’s position on immigration is not much different than mine,” Rubio said after Senator Ted Cruz described his peer’s stance on immigration as not conservative enough.
“He is a supporter of legalizing people who are in this country illegally. If he’s changed that position he certainly has a right to change that position,” Rubio added.
While on stage, Cruz joked about his plan to tackle immigration. “There are about 90,000 employees at the IRS. We need to padlock that building and take 90,000 and put them down on our southern border. You’re swimming across the Rio Grande and the first thing you see is 90,000 IRS agents, you’d turn around and go home too,” Cruz said.
Meanwhile, supporters and members of the media watched to see if Trump would play nice. On Thursday evening, he delivered a tirade attacking Carson. Instead, on Friday, Trump focused on the issues, highlighting polls that show he is leading the Republicans in Florida.
“Florida, well I have an advantage because I have thousands of jobs in Florida,” he said.
And while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush likely thought a year ago he’d be the frontrunner in the Sunshine State, he spoke before Trump and Carson. “Even though there are more Democrats in this state that Republicans, we win and I’m proud of that,” Bush said.
“It’s one of the issues that people are divided on, how to handle undocumented immigrants that travel to Florida,” political expert and University of South Florida professor Susan Macmanus.
“The candidates are struggling with it. That’s why this particular conference is so important because this is the first time they’ve really had to talk about a serious issue in one of the nation’s most diverse states, one in which the Hispanic vote is critical, so they’re walking on eggshells. Let me tell you: There are people watching how they’re going to handle this issue,” Macmanus said.
The summit will continue Saturday with the candidates who have lower poll numbers.