Why Is The Florida Primary So Important? For Marco Rubio, It's Go Big Or Go Home

As the Republican primary chugs along, the focus is now on Florida, which will cast its vote on Tuesday. Florida, once again, has emerged as an extremely important state in the 2016 election and may play an outsized role in determining the Republican nominee. But why is the Florida primary so important in the GOP, exactly?

There are two reasons. For one, it's a winner-take-all state — for Republicans; the Democratic race has no winner-take-all states — which means that whoever comes away with the most votes gets all of the state's delegates. Secondly, it's worth a truckload of delegates — 99, to be exact. That's more delegates than any other winner-take-all state, which means that coming in first place in the Florida primary will single-handedly net a Republican candidate more delegates than a first-place finish in any of the remaining states.

On a more symbolic level, Florida is important because it's the home of former GOP wonder boy Marco Rubio. It was once assumed that Rubio would easily win his home state and all of its 99 delegates — but then again, it was also once assumed that Rubio would be a formidable presidential candidate in general. As it happened, his campaign has been massively disappointing — so far, he's only won in Puerto Rico, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. — and he's consistently trailed badly in Florida polls.

Rubio is betting all of his chips on winning Florida, but from a delegate standpoint, even that might be too little too late. And as Rudy Giuliani learned in 2008, banking your entire campaign on winning Florida is an incredibly risky strategy. That said, a Rubio win in Florida would have benefits unrelated to the 2016 race. Specifically, it would allow him to retain some degree of dignity and respect in his home state, which will come in handy if he decides to run for statewide office again at any point in the future.

In all likelihood, Trump will win Florida. But while this would be a huge win for his campaign, it wouldn't necessarily guarantee him the nomination. According to a POLITICO analysis, Trump will be very well positioned to clinch the nomination if he wins Florida and Ohio, the other delegate-heavy, winner-take-all state that votes on March 15. If he loses Ohio, however, his path to the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination becomes a lot more difficult— and a contested convention in July becomes even more likely.