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Marco Rubio's moment of truth approaches

How Miami's Cuban-American's journey to White House got derailed

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MIAMI – With the definitive Florida primary a few days away, Sen. Marco Rubio appeared to be growing desperate. His latest insult for Donald Trump was to link him to a third-world dictator Saturday. 

Rubio mocked Trump for worrying that his pants were "wet" and for applying make up on his mustache. He also made fun of him for having small hands. 

Later during a New York Times interview, Rubio said, "Most countries around the world that are failures are because they deposit their hopes in a person, a strong leader who comes forward and says 'Put me in power, and I will make the country better.

"That's exactly what he [Trump] is doing," Rubio, 44, said. "The rhetoric reminds me of third-world strongmen."

Before starting a day of campaigning in Central Florida Saturday, he held a press conference to accuse Trump of inciting violence. Protesters shut down Trump's rally on Friday night. Rubio said Trump was leading the country into "chaos" and "anarchy." 

On Saturday, during a rally in Largo, Rubio said, "If I win Florida by one vote, I get all 99 delegates and if I don't, I get none. That's how high the stakes are."

Rubio's descent began with a bad Super Tuesday and continued with a terrible Super Saturday. Now on Tuesday, Trump's populist connection to Florida's blue-collar conservatives will go against Rubio's faltering effort to court Florida's  white-collar Republicans.  

Cruz was working on a risky strategy to keep Rubio from winning Florida, one of the nation's most expensive advertising states. Rubio did the same to Cruz in Texas, but failed. For the first time in history, Cuban-Americans in Florida will have a choice between two of their own. 

Although it was still mathematically possible for Rubio to make it to the White House, political pundits this week were already sinking Rubio. Some highlighted his "shaky financial management."

"Rubio's consistently poor showing has been so surprising to so many political pundits, my self included, that his campaign will likely be remembered as one of the most disappointing of the past several election cycles," Slate contributor Isaac Choiner said in a column. 

Salon's Gary Legum said he expected Rubio's fall:  "Rubio and his handlers seemed to think he could cruise to the nomination on the strength of an appeal that was as chimerical as a unicorn." 

Florida and Ohio -- both winner-take-all primary states -- are anti-Trump Republicans' last line of defense against the real estate mogul. And not everyone has given up on Rubio. Norman Braman, 83, who employs Rubio's wife, Jeanette Rubio, has believed in him since 2005.

"After we win the Florida primary, the math, the momentum and the money are going to be on our side," Rubio's communication director, Alex Conant, told Fox News. And after Rubio's victory in Puerto Rico, Conant said, "We are going to win Florida and you'll find out on March 15th how confident we are."

Rubio was projected to win the Republican presidential caucuses Saturday in Washington D.C.

To win the nomination a candidate needs 1,237 delegate votes. The GOP's July national convention is in Cleveland.  

 


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