Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising Rubio: I hope I can trust whoever wins with the nuclear codes O'Malley: Trump is a 'racist' and a 'bigot' MORE is crushing the field in Florida, a critical winner-take-all state that could seal the deal for the GOP front-runner on March 15.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday found Trump with 44 percent support.
This is the first survey of Florida since the state's former governor, Jeb Bush, dropped out of the race, and it shows Trump has only grown his lead as the field has winnowed.
“If Sen. Rubio can’t win in his own home state, it is difficult to see how he can win elsewhere,” Quinnipiac polling director Peter Brown said.
Florida’s 99 delegates make it the biggest winner-take-all state this cycle. The only other winner-take-all state that will vote on March 15 is Ohio, and Trump is currently favored to collect that state's 66 delegates as well.
Political watchers say that if Trump builds a comfortable delegate lead after Super Tuesday next week, as he’s expected to, victories in Florida and Ohio could make it impossible for any of the other candidates to catch him in the race.
Still, the poll raised one red flag for Trump.
Florida only allows registered Republicans to vote in the state’s primary, provoking Brown to wonder “whether the flood of new voters Donald Trump seemed to bring to earlier contests will be able to participate.”
But Trump’s lead in Florida is so thorough, it would take a total collapse for someone to catch him there.
“He leads in every age group by 9 to 19 percentage points,” Brown said.
“Despite being a New York multi-billionaire, he leads among those who identify with the Tea Party. He also does twice as well among white evangelicals as does Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trying to make this his core constituency.”
On the economy, which most Florida Republicans called the top issue in the election, Trump leads Rubio 51 percent to 28 percent.
The only category where Rubio tops Trump is among those who want a candidate who shares their values. The Florida senator has a 39-to-29 advantage in that group.
Rubio is also tied with Trump among those who want a candidate that is honest and trustworthy.
Only 5 percent of the Florida Republicans polled said they remain undecided. Thirty percent said they could still change their minds from who they currently support.
The Quinnipiac survey of 705 likely Republican voters was conducted between Feb. 21 and Feb. 24 and has a 3.7 percentage point margin of error.
Updated at 10:30 a.m.