JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An overflow crowd greeted Sen. Marco Rubio Monday morning at Maple Street Biscuit Co. in San Marco, where the Republican presidential candidate began a four-city primary-eve blitz designed to pull off an upset victory in Florida.
Recent polls show Rubio between 6 and 24 points behind Donald Trump in the Sunshine State, but Florida's junior senator remains confident that he can win on Tuesday.
"Tomorrow's the day when we're going to shock the country. We're going to do what needs to be done. We're going to win the 99 delegates here in Florida, and it's going to give us the momentum we need to go into Arizona and Utah and beyond," Rubio told cheering supporters. "What's at stake in this election is the definition and identity of our country and our party."
After encouraging people to go to the polls and vote for him on Tuesday, Rubio spend about 15 minutes working the crowd of about 400, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
"I got my card signed by him and I'm real excited," Denise Shuman said. "I've also been volunteering, doing phone messages for him."
Rubio started his day at WJXT, where he did satellite interviews with numerous television stations before appearing on Channel 4's The Morning Show.
"First of all, 10 percent of people being undecided in a Republican ... presidential race is a big number," Rubio told Channel 4's Nikki Kimbleton. "So that's what this campaign is about over this last day: to ensure that not only do our supporters get out and vote, but that we try to get the people who are still trying to make up their minds to decide in our direction."
The three other candidates vying for the GOP nomination are less focused on Florida, although front-runner Donald Trump has a rally scheduled at 2 p.m. Monday in Tampa. He canceled two South Florida events later in the day, opting to make a primary-eve rally in Ohio instead.
Ted Cruz has five stops scheduled Monday, all in Illinois.
John Kasich, who, like Rubio, must win his home state's primary Tuesday to have a viable path to the nomination, is campaigning across Ohio on Monday.
The senator is relying on fellow Cuban-Americans to help defeat Trump and capture the state GOP delegates. But the junior senator’s membership in the Gang of Eight that pushed for immigration reform has gotten him into trouble with conservative Hispanics in Florida and elsewhere in the country.
Florida’s demographics are very different than those in much of the country. The state is home to nearly 479,000 registered Republican Hispanic voters, about 11 percent of all GOP voters.