Florida's primary results could have major impact

Republican convention could be affected by Florida's outcome

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – All eyes will be on Florida on Tuesday as voters continue to cast votes and the ballots are counted.

But no one thought at the beginning of this campaign season that the Republican nomination could come down to what happens in the Sunshine State.

Ninety-nine delegates are up for grabs in Florida, and that could determine what will happen at the convention. Will Donald Trump be a sure thing? Or could the battle go to the convention floor?

There is a lot riding on Floridians' votes, not just because they will help choose the presidential nominees for this fall, but also because what happens in Florida could signal what could happen at the conventions this summer.

Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute has been studying the importance of Florida in this year’s election process

“It was always assumed that Florida, it was going to be very important for a number reasons,” Mullaney said. “One, it's the first state where it's winner-take-all. Second, Florida has 99 delegates, which is a really big number to get out. But I don't think anybody anticipated that it would be this important.”

The Republicans will meet for their convention in Cleveland in July, and the outcome in Florida could have an impact on what happens there.

“The Florida primary is a big part of who's going to be elected the next president or is going to be the nominee, there's just no doubt about it,” Mullaney said. “What was not anticipated (is) that this primary may affect whether or not there's going to be a brokered convention or if somebody's going to get the required number of delegates to be the nominee. It's that important in Florida this time.”

So Florida will have everyone watching and scrutinizing what happens on Tuesday, just like in 2000 when the hanging chads and recounts determined the course of the general election nationwide.

In the last two presidential primaries, Florida moved its election up to January to be more relevant, but the parties penalized the state for going so early and took away half of its delegates.

Now, with a primary in March, Florida gets its full share of delegates.

“Florida is always important in its elections. You have 99 delegates in the state of Florida. It's winner-take-all, so it's going to be huge for whoever the victor comes out,” News4Jax political analyst Jennifer Carroll said.

And while much of the focus is on the Republicans, the primary in Florida also plays a national role for the Democrats.

“I think Hillary Clinton has had a strong showing so far. Obviously, if she continues on the path, Florida will help seal it,” said Neil Henrichsen, chairman of the Duval Democratic Party. “I also think it’s an important factor, showing the contrast throughout the country, showing the Democrats and kind of the adult conversation that has gone on between the two Democrats in their debates and the Republicans, which have shown real chaos.”

While four other states also have their primaries Tuesday, Florida has been getting a lot of attention from the candidates.

Two weeks ago, on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio all had their election night events in South Florida, signaling it was a state they were getting ready to focus on.

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