Marco Rubio has a lot riding on the Florida GOP primary on March 15, and he's ramped up campaigning in the Sunshine State this week. Despite having a home-state advantage there, the senator is still struggling to gain enthusiasm in his campaign events and recent polls. Photos of Rubio's Hialeah rally on Wednesday are pretty depressing, showing a nearly empty football stadium less than a week out from the primary.
The Republican presidential hopeful held a campaign rally at Milander Stadium in the sixth-largest city in the state, but failed to attract enough voters to even remotely fill the venue — while the stadium can hold a few thousand people, only a few hundred attended the event. A stage was set up in the end zone, and according to Politico reporter Shane Goldmacher, the crowd stopped at the 20-yard line. If you aren't familiar with football, 20 yards make up less than a quarter of the whole field.
Photos of the Rubio 2016 event in a mostly empty stadium made his prospects for the Florida primary look bleak. He's already far behind Donald Trump in the latest Fox News poll of Florida Republicans, with only 20 percent of support, and small campaign events won't help. Rally attendance doesn't directly correlate to voter turnout, but a lack of enthusiasm for Rubio in his home state further exemplifies his dwindling momentum.
After a somewhat validating third-place finish in the Iowa caucus, Rubio failed to build on that mild success, and has remained in third place for the GOP nomination, behind Trump and Ted Cruz. The Florida senator won the Minnesota and Puerto Rico primaries, but didn't take any of the four states that voted Tuesday.
Florida has a winner-take-all primary, and Rubio is channeling all his efforts there up until the big day. He needs to win his home state's 99 delegates to have any chance at winning the party's nomination by proving that he at least has the support of his current constituents. "Florida is the priority," Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told USA Today's Ledyard King.
Of course, Hialeah is only one town, and doesn't represent the entire state's feelings about Rubio, but the poor turnout isn't a good sign for his future. Attendance and enthusiasm at campaign events tend to paint a clear picture of how much support candidates have, and it looks like Rubio doesn't have much in Hialeah. It might be worth holding events in smaller venues, so that average crowds appear a little bigger.