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Donald Trump has been on a tear accusing the Republican establishment of rigging the system to hurt him, despite the fact that he leads the delegate count in the primaries.
One of the states where leaders are out to get him is Florida, he says. The state’s March 15 primary was "winner-take-all," which means all of the delegates went to one winner, who ended up being Trump.
"You speak about what’s unfair, so in Florida you had 99 delegates," he said in a speech in Rome, N.Y. "And Jeb Bush had it set -- Jeb Bush or Rubio, both of them. They had it set so that the winner takes everything, because they wanted to make sure that I didn't get anything."
Did Bush and Rubio set the Florida primary for winner-take-all because they wanted to prevent Trump from getting any delegates?
Republican officials did hope a winner-take-all primary would benefit Bush or Rubio, but Trump gets some of his key facts wrong.
Who decided winner-take-all
In February 2015, state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chair of an elections committee, announced that he would introduce a bill to set Florida’s presidential primary on March 15, 2016.
In the primaries of 2008 and 2012, Florida had gone rogue with its primary date, with state GOP legislators setting the date of Florida’s primary earlier than national leaders wanted. (Early states like Iowa and New Hampshire are picky about other states’ primary dates.) In 2012, national leaders punished Florida by taking away half of its delegates. The March 15 date for 2016 meant Florida was back to following the national party’s suggestions.
"We want Florida to be meaningful and relevant in the presidential elections," Richter told the Miami Herald in February 2015. "We don't want to come under any penalties and we want to have the candidates come to Florida and actively campaign."
Richter also said at the time that it would help Florida’s favorite sons -- Bush, a former governor, and Rubio, a U.S. senator, if they decided to run. (Rubio announced in April and Bush announced in June.)
Richter told PolitiFact Florida that leading up to introducing his bill "I had absolutely no conversations whatsoever with Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or any of their representatives or campaign or anything."
Because the state was back to following the rules on the date, it had an option whether to set the primary as winner-take-all or to award delegates proportionally. State officials decided to go with winner-take-all.
But Richter said that there were no conversations among leadership or the Senate about Trump when setting winner-take-all.
"Not once did Trump’s name come up at any point in time," he told PolitiFact Florida.
At the time, the winner-take-all choice was talked about as a gift to Bush, who was viewed as the top Florida candidate early on.
"The winner-take-all primary was a very good thing for Jeb -- before Marco got in," Ana Navarro, a Bush supporter told the Tampa Bay Times in May 2015. "When people, including me, were calling their legislators, telling them to make it winner-take-all, we were all still under the mistaken impression that Marco wasn't going to run."
The bill sailed through the Legislature unanimously, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it March 19, 2015. (This was months before Trump’s June announcement that he would be running.)
On May 16, the Republican Party of Florida’s Executive Board formally accepted the state plan and announced a winner-take-all election. (The board voted unanimously, including vice chair Joe Gruters, who would later go on to be Trump’s co-chair.)
"Florida will now be the first winner-take-all primary in the country, this ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in-between," said party chair Blaise Ingoglia.
PolitiFact Florida asked Gruters: Is there any proof that Bush or Rubio had winner-take-all set?
"Not that I’m aware of," he said. "My guess is they wouldn’t have to. Looking at all the (Republican) people voting in the Legislature, they were 80 percent Bush guys and the other 20 percent were Rubio guys."
We found no evidence that state legislators and party officials were even thinking about Trump when they were setting the date.
Trump said he might run in January 2015 and started giving speeches, including at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
It wasn’t until July -- the month after Trump announced his candidacy -- that the New York billionaire started to lead in many national polls.
It was clear that Florida Republican powerbrokers hoped that winner-take-all would help Bush or Rubio win. But in the end, that wasn’t the case. Bush suspended his campaign a few weeks before Florida’s primary and Rubio ended up only winning his home county of Miami-Dade while Trump swept the rest of the state.
Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said that Bush "had no role at all" in setting the winner-take-all system. A spokesman for Rubio declined to respond.
Trump says that Bush and Rubio "had it set so that the winner takes everything, because they wanted to make sure that I didn't get anything" in the Florida primary.
It wasn’t Bush or Rubio who set those rules for the March 15, 2016, primary. It was the Florida Legislature that passed the bill setting the date, allowing the state GOP to decide whether to make it winner-take-all.
By that point, Trump was a potential candidate, but he wasn’t seen as a major threat to Rubio or Bush -- especially in Florida -- at that point.
We rate Trump’s statement False.
YouTube, Donald Trump speech in Rome, New York, April 12, 2016
Florida Senate, SB7036, Signed by Gov. Rick Scott on March 19, 2015
Republican Party of Florida, Press release, May 16, 2015
Real Clear Politics, 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Polls between 2015-16
Politico, "Florida quietly sets up an epic 2016 primary clash," May 18, 2016
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "GOP ready to set March 15, 2016, as Fla.'s presidential primary," Feb. 19, 2015
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "In Marco Rubio vs. Jeb Bush fight, will other GOP candidates compete in Florida's March 15 primary?" May 31, 2015
Interview, Kristy Campbell, Jeb Bush spokeswoman, April 13, 2016
Interview, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, April 13, 3016
Interview, Wadi Gaitan, spokesman for Republican Party of Florida, April 14, 2016
Interview, Joe Gruters, Donald Trump Florida co-chair, April 14, 2016
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