A group of Latino conservatives backing Marco Rubio is mustering forces in the GOP candidate's home state of Florida, hoping they can help him win it.
But they also acknowledged Wednesday that the best they may get is a contested nominating procedure at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. A Quinnipac poll showed Trump leading with 45 percent to Rubio's 22 percent of the Republican primary vote in Florida.
“There’s no question (Rubio) hasn’t done well,” but at this point we are as much anti-Trump,” said Tony Suarez, a radio talk show host in Orlando, where the Hispanic Conservative Roundtable held a news conference.
The group has held similar news conferences in Colorado, Nevada and Texas, first to condemn Donald Trump and then Ted Cruz. Members have said they would have trouble supporting the two because of their immigration views and rhetoric and would not campaign for Trump. Some of the group's members still support Cruz.
Many of the group’s members had been Jeb Bush backers, but shifted to Rubio when Bush ended his campaign.
“Florida is ground zero to stop Donald Trump,” said Alfonso Aguilar, the group’s spokesman and president of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “The way to stop Donald Trump is to nominate a good conservative who has been good with Hispanics and that is Marco Rubio.”
Aguilar said only Trump can get 1,237 delegates, so the strategy is to prevent him from getting them. That could send the nomination fight to the convention floor, which could open the way for delegates to realign their votes and try to get their candidate nominated instead.
“This is a totally irregular process. No one knows where this is going to end up. We have to do this day by day,” Aguilar said at the news conference.
Aguilar said John Kasich isn’t an option for the group of GOP Hispanics to endorse because he doesn’t seem to excite people and because he isn’t truly conservative. He expanded Medicaid in Ohio, for example.
“He hasn’t won anything,” Aguilar said of Kasich. “That may change if Rubio loses Florida and Kasich wins Ohio.”
Reached in Texas, Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman who had worked in Texas to build support for Rubio, said Kasich wasn’t an option since he has fewer delegates than Rubio and “can’t win.”
However, a Kasich win in Ohio would deny Trump delegates in the winner-take-all state and could help the Hispanic conservatives reach their goal of a brokered convention.
While Villarreal has said he'd write in someone before supporting Trump or Cruz, Orlando-based Suarez said he'd consider Cruz "if that's the alternative, but my hope is still that Marco Rubio is going to win Florida."