ORLANDO, Fla. – What Gov. Rick Scott billed as an Economic Growth Summit put the Sunshine State at the center of Republican Party presidential politics Tuesday as most of the major declared candidates for 2016, and two others expected to join in the race, convene at one event for the first time.
Seven prominent Republicans who will all likely be in the presidential fray spoke in 30-minute increments to an estimated crowd of 400 invited to the summit, organized and hosted by Scott's "Let's Get To Work" political action committee at Walt Disney World Yacht Club Convention Center.
GALLERY: Summit speakers, remarks
Florida has been the largest swing state in the last two presidential elections and remains so, with 29 critical, winner-take-all electoral votes.
"Each candidate has noted that Florida has replaced New York as the third largest state," said University of South Florida political science professor Susan McManus. "That message is loud and clear too. Anybody running for president has to know, this is a very important state. But it's still very competitive, and Republicans have to win it."
Both Florida candidates, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, spoke -- Rubio in the morning via a video feed from Washington and Bush in the afternoon.
The line-up also included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
The audience had an opportunity to ask questions to each speaker.
Kevin Hyde, former president of the Jacksonville City Council, said it's nice to get a first-hand look at the presidential candidates and hear their ideas about business growth.
"I think the common theme is business grows when there's lack of regulation. And also good government supports business growth," Hyde said. "They all seem to be saying the same thing, they want business to grow, and they see that as basis for greater opportunity."