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GOP Presidential Contenders Eye Florida And Its Winner-Take-All Delegates


Two more huge prizes loom in the presidential campaign next week. One is Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich hopes at last to win a state. Another is Florida, where immense amounts of money are being spent - we're told - to challenge Donald Trump and support home state Sen. Marco Rubio. NPR's Asma Khalid is in Miami. She's been following both the Trump and Rubio campaigns. Asma, good morning.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I hope it's nice in Miami. How organized is Donald Trump in Florida?

KHALID: You know, I think that's been the perennial question about the Trump campaign is how organized is he anywhere? And thus far I don't know that that's mattered. But I will say in Florida so far I have been fascinated by how organized he does seem to be. You know, folks here say that this is kind of like a second home for him. He has a bunch of properties here. And he also started coming to the state months ago. And these were not, you know, just small visits to a retirement community here and there. These were massive rallies as far back as October. And I think the other thing that's really interesting is that he made some strategic hires early on. And he's connected to people who know grassroots organizing in the state. You know, for example, his deputy director used to be the data director for the state party. And so he made these key hires. And I think that's helped him so far.

INSKEEP: And when you say data director, you are alluding to what we're talking about. Do you have names of people who could be supporters? Do you have an organization to phone them or knock on their doors? Are you reaching out to people? Do have prominent Republicans on your side? That's what Trump is trying to do. What about on Rubio's side? Obviously he's the home state guy. Does he have a good organization?

KHALID: You know, Rubio is essentially banking everything here on Florida. I was at his Miami office the other day. And there are people there phone banking both in English and in Spanish. You know, I think what's important to understand is that not only is he the home state senator but that he is really campaigning. And he has been campaigning here nonstop. You know, he wasn't even focused on those March 8 contests yesterday. He was spending the past couple of days here in Florida. And his campaign says that they're really focused on two big geographic areas. He wants to do well in the I-4 corridor. So that's the area that stretches from Orlando to Tampa. The thinking is that there's just a lot of people there and there's certainly a lot of suburban and urban voters.


KHALID: And we've seen Rubio, you know, do better with those kinds of voters. The other part of his strategy entails a really big win in Miami-Dade County. You know, this is Rubio's home turf. And he needs his neighbors to show up in record numbers at the polls. I think that's a big question. They are - certainly they got, I think, into the game, some could say, later than perhaps the Trump campaign and certainly later than the Jeb Bush folks who had a headquarters here in Miami. But they are in an intense media blitz. You can turn on the radio. You'll hear the campaign advertising on local Spanish stations even here on the radio.

INSKEEP: OK, just got about 20 seconds left. What about Ted Cruz? Is he a factor in Florida?

KHALID: You know, Cruz is campaigning. This morning he's actually holding a rally here in Miami. He's also opened up about 10 offices in the state. And I think it would be a huge surprise for Cruz to actually be able to win Florida. But what he wants to do is he wants to ensure Rubio does not win Florida because I think Cruz is eager to turn this campaign into a two-man race, especially given how poorly Rubio did last night.

INSKEEP: OK, Asma, thanks very much.

KHALID: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Asma Khalid in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.