Marco Rubio hosts rally in Sarasota

Rallying voters ahead of the Florida primary

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hundreds of supporters packed into an aircraft hanger at Dolphin Aviation Tuesday to listen to Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. The senator from Florida is crisscrossing the Sunshine State making his pitch to voters before Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary.

That March 15 contest is do or die for Rubio’s presidential bid. Florida is a winner-take-all state with 99 delegates up for grabs. A win would turn the tide for Rubio’s quest to be president.

RELATED: Voters in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii make presidential primary picks

A recent Monmouth University poll found Rubio closing the gap – with Donald Trump’s lead down to the single digits. That poll found the senator trailing Trump by 8 percentage points. However, in the poll average, Trump leads the field of candidates by 16 percentage points in Florida.

Rubio’s working hard to overcome the difference. He admitted he’s an underdog in this race, but said he’s committed to proving the critics wrong.

The senator spoke with News Channel 8. “(We can win Florida) with votes. Everybody needs to come out and vote. I’m the only one in this race that can unite the Republican party and grow it. I proved that this weekend in Puerto Rico, a place that doesn’t vote Republican. I got 70 percent of the vote,” Rubio said. “I’m as conservative as anyone running, much more conservative than Donald Trump, and I can unite this party and grow it, so Florida knows that, so we need to win here in Florida. If I win Florida, I’m going to be the Republican nominee.”

He honed that message Tuesday, saying he’s more conservative than Trump and is best equipped to beat him for the Republican ticket – and to win the presidency.

During the rally Rubio blasted President Barack Obama’s administration. He said he will fight for Second Amendment rights and limited government.

“You will have a president for the first time in eight years that believes the federal government is a limited government … Solutions don’t come from government … Solutions come at state level … I will believe and follow the Tenth Amendment and return power to the states,” Rubio said.

He also cited his commitment to a strong military.

While speaking with News Channel 8, Rubio addressed a few recent controversies. A new CNN report says some of his staffers are suggesting he leave the race before Florida’s primary to avoid embarrassment. He blasted the report as being filled with lies, saying CNN cannot name any source who provided that information.

“A battle is being waged within Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign about whether he should even remain in the Republican presidential race ahead of his home state primary on March 15, sources say,” CNN says. Read the full report here.

Rubio emphasized he is committed to winning Florida and the race. He also addressed another incident, this one involving Ted Cruz. Reports say Cruz campaign staffers in Hawaii sent out emails telling voters Rubio was about to drop out of the race.

Rubio said this is a shameful example of Cruz’s dirty tactics. This is giving the American people a better idea of how the Cruz campaign operates, Rubio said.

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