TALLAHASSEE - Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump hold hefty leads as next week's presidential primaries loom in Florida --- a potentially ominous sign for home-state GOP candidate Marco Rubio, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Clinton, the former secretary of state, leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a margin of 62 percent to 32 percent among likely Florida Democratic voters. Trump, meanwhile, leads Rubio by a margin of 45 percent to 22 percent, with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz at 18 percent, the Quinnipiac University poll shows.
The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held Tuesday, with early voting already started.
"Secretary Hillary Clinton has doubled up on Sen. Bernie Sanders in Florida. With less than a week until the actual voting, it is difficult to see a path to victory for him in the Sunshine State,'' Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a prepared statement accompanying Wednesday's results. "He just has too much ground to make up and not enough time in which to do it."
But the poll numbers could be most troubling for Rubio. The Florida senator is widely believed to need a win in his home state to remain a viable alternative to Trump, a billionaire real-estate developer who is running as an outsider.
"In the Sunshine State, hometown hero Sen. Marco Rubio is 23 points behind Trump and isn't even doing much better than Sen. Ted Cruz,'' Brown said. "Also discouraging for the anti-Trump folks is that Trump voters say they are less likely than those supporting any of the other candidates to change their mind in the closing days."
The poll was conducted from last Wednesday to Monday and included 511 likely Democratic voters and 657 likely Republican voters. The Democratic results have a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points, while the GOP results have a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
The results were released as Clinton and Sanders prepare to debate Wednesday night in Miami-Dade County --- and came the morning after Sanders scored a major upset Tuesday in Michigan's primary.
Clinton is buoyed in Florida by heavy support from women and older voters, the poll showed. For instance, she leads by a margin of 69 percent to 24 percent among women, while holding an eight-point lead among men.
The former First Lady and New York senator also leads by a margin of 66 percent to 26 percent among voters ages 45 to 64 and by a margin of 72 percent to 21 percent among voters 65 and older, according to the poll. Clinton and Sanders are tied among voters under 45.
The poll indicated 83 percent of Democratic voters had made up their minds, with 16 percent saying they might change their minds before casting ballots.
On the Republican side, Trump held clear leads among men and women, along with voters in all age groups. The poll showed that 85 percent of Trump supporters said they had made up their minds, with only 14 percent indicating they might change their minds.
Connecticut-based Quinnipiac frequently conducts polls in Florida and other swing states. It also released results Wednesday of a poll in Ohio, which is holding its presidential primary Tuesday. That poll showed Clinton and Trump leading in Ohio, though by smaller margins than in Florida.