Marco Rubio rallies Florida voters in Tampa

- Senator Marco Rubio admitted during a news conference in Tampa that he is an "underdog" in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

"We are going to win Florida," he said. "We are going to have to work hard. I feel good about the progress we are making."

For Rubio, Florida may be his last hope at slowing the two candidates ahead of him.

Donald Trump has been the frontrunner for many months, winning 12 primaries. Senator Ted Cruz has won six primaries. Senator Rubio has won only two primaries.

Rubio trails Trump by a narrowing gap of eight percentage points in a new Monmouth Florida poll, 38 to 30.

In short, Rubio hopes the state that launched him to the U.S. Senate in 2010 will save his presidential bid in 2016.

"We have to do it now," said Rubio. "A turning point is coming. A turning point awaits in this election and for this country, and it begins here in Florida."

Two weeks ago, one statewide poll showed he trailed Donald Trump 45 to 25 percent.

"We are going to win Florida. We are going to have to work hard. We are an underdog, I acknowledge that, but I feel good about the progress we are making," Rubio said.

Complicating things for Rubio is that a third of Florida republicans have already voted -- many while Jeb Bush was still running.

Though Rubio never holds back in criticizing the current president, he tried to capture remaining votes with an optimistic theme of change, ironically similar to Barack Obama's campaign style.

"Conservatism is at its best, not when it's about fear, not when it's about anger, conservatism is at its best when it's about principles and optimism," Rubio said.

It's a lesson learned for Rubio, who has seen Cruz score six primary wins.

FOX 13 political editor Craig Patrick says the Trump-Rubio dustup has helped Cruz more than Rubio.

"Rubio has learned if you roll around in the mud, you are going to get dirty," said Patrick.

But Florida could clean things up for Rubio. One analysis shows that if Trump wins next week, he would lead Rubio by a nearly insurmountable 504 delegates.

But if Rubio could win the state's 99 delegates, Trump's lead would be only 240 delegates.

"I am asking Florida to do what Florida always does: decide the nomination and decide the presidency," said Rubio.

Rubio has several rallies planned for this week, including one in Sarasota.

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