KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Marco Rubio on Tuesday predicted a drawn-out fight far beyond Florida for the Republican presidential nomination, telling reporters "this ride has got a few more tricks and turns."
"What we hear from people all over the country is 'Please do not let Donald Trump be our nominee. He's going to get crushed, and divide us and re-define the Republican Party in a negative way,'" he said during a campaign stop in Kissimmee, Fla.
"So this is just a very different election year. This is going to take a long time. I don't think anyone has a clear path to 1237 delegates. So buckle up your seat belts — this ride has got a few more tricks and turns."
Rubio is currently trailing GOP front-runner Donald Trump in public polls of his home-state primary but dismissed those numbers, telling reporters that polls "have been all over the place" and "I'm not worried about polls right now." Still, Florida remains his last chance of reversing the downward trajectory of his campaign after disappointing showings in the last two rounds of primary votes that saw him losing to both Trump and Ted Cruz even in states where he campaigned aggressively.
Rubio's strategy in many of the states where he fell short relied on a last-minute boost of momentum to push him over the finish line, and he seemed to acknowledge Tuesday that strategy was too little, too late in some states — like Virginia, where he turned out thousands at a quartet of rallies the day before the state voted but still came in second to Trump. "We were 20 points down in Virginia and if we had another day we would have beaten Donald Trump there," he said.
But it's clear Rubio won't make the same mistake in Florida — he's spending most of the two weeks leading up to the primary there barnstorming the state in hopes of securing an outright win and with it the state's 99 delegates.
Rubio told reporters he's confident he'll win Florida, and he'll be helped by voters realizing that Trump doesn't offer real solutions — and that he's the only one that can defeat him. "I believe that Donald Trump, people may like his reality show personality but he has no serious solutions to America's problems. Many of the solutions are dangerous and reckless," he said. "And here in Florida if you vote for Ted Cruz or John Kasich you are voting for Donald Trump. I am the only one that can beat him in Florida I am the only one that can stop him here."
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.