Marco Rubio on Wednesday acknowledged that "we haven’t done as well ... as we wanted to" in some primary states and advised observers "don’t be surprised if we don’t do well in some other states next Tuesday," but was bullish on his prospects when his home state votes next Tuesday.
"Even if I had done really well in all these previous states, if I had not done well in Florida, it would be trouble for our campaign, so we need to win here. That's our priority. We're focused on it like a laser and we're going to win," he said during an MSNBC town hall.
But he stopped short of predicting an outright win: "We feel really good about it," he said.
Rubio acknowledged his "laser" focus on Florida would likely come at the detriment of his performance in the other states that are set to vote next Tuesday.
"Don't be surprised if we don't do well in some other states next Tuesday, because we're not there. We're here," he said.
The Florida senator is spending the final week leading up to Florida's primary barnstorming the state in hopes of overcoming a deficit in the polls to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
And although Rubio insisted Wednesday his strategy had always hinged on success in Florida, his performance there has become make-or-break for his campaign after a series of disappointing showings in primaries across the country over the past week.
Rubio chalked up his struggles in Florida in large part due to Trump’s total domination of the media coverage of the presidential race — which he said was the result of Trump’s ability to “manipulate the media."
"The national media, to be fair, has given Donald Trump ten times as much coverage as every other Republican candidate combined. And part of it is because he says outrageous things and part of it is because he knows how to manipulate the media, but it's had an impact," he said.
His team, he added, is “working on reversing that now here in Florida,” but he acknowledged “it’s going to be a lot of hard work."
But Rubio echoed the case he’s made in recent days, that he’s the only one who can defeat Trump in his home state and help stop his march toward the nomination.
Rubio warned if Trump becomes the nominee "there’s a significant percentage of Republicans" that won’t vote for him — "and that is why he will get destroyed in a general election."
Rubio: 'We Should Do Something' on DREAMers
During the wide-ranging interview, Rubio also elaborated on a handful of hot-button policy issues, drilling down particularly on immigration, perhaps one of the most difficult issues for the senator to navigate.
As a member of the Gang of 8 senators who crafted the 2013 immigration reform proposal that ultimately failed to draw significant support in the House, Rubio’s been dogged by criticism from conservatives who feel he effectively endorsed amnesty for undocumented immigrants in helping to craft that bill.
He has since shifted to the right on immigration, but still seeks a middle ground on some issues, and on Wednesday suggested even though he’d end the executive order delaying deportations for undocumented immigrants brought here as children and their parents, he wouldn’t deport them immediately.
"I think you always prioritize criminals and dangerous people for deportation. I don't think that -- and -- and now, deportation is — is the final process in a longer process when someone is in this country without status and here illegally," he said.
Rubio said that "we should do something" to accommodate those young people, but added "I don’t think you can do that in an unconstitutional way."
All reforms, Rubio said, would need to wait until it was clear the border was secure — and that would take some time.
"It's not going to happen in six months or a year," he said.
Rubio diverged with Trump on what it would take to secure the border, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that it would require 700 miles of fencing but only "across key sectors" where traffic can be funneled and controlled. Trump has famously called for a wall across the southern border.
Rubio also said he’d roll back the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations opened by the Obama administration because it was "illegal," and that any changes implemented "must be according to law as it was written by Congress and it should be reciprocal."
And Rubio elaborated on his stance toward Wall Street and the banking industry, drawing a sharp contrast with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on the issue of whether some of the big banks deserved harsher penalties for lending practices that contributed to 2007 financial crisis.
Rubio said that what they did was "legal," although he added "I don’t think it was right."
"So there are people that probably did things that are — did things that were immoral and wrong and they cashed out knowing that their practices were unsustainable," he said.
"But that doesn't make it illegal," Rubio said. "It makes it negligent, it makes it irresponsible, it makes it immoral, but that's different from saying illegal."