Florida is center stage in Republican race

Posted at 1:35 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 21:40:07-05

If you had handicapped presidential candidates at the start of 2015, could you have foreseen Donald Trump's rise to the top of the polls by the end of the year?

He's at times outspoken, as he showed when he called for a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

He can also be outrageous and out of bounds to his critics. One point that can't be debated is Trump has shaped the Republican Party presidential race.

Typical is his comments on immigration.

"I want to build a wall," he has said many times and have Mexico pay for it.

On the immigration debate, terror worries and more, the part-time Palm Beach resident has become a media machine.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. 

Another Floridian, former governor Jeb Bush, had the name, the money and the establishment backing. He didn't count on voters tired of the status quo.

"I am running this campaign on my own terms," he said at one point.  "Let me tell you something, when the dust clears and delegates are counted, we're going to win this campaign."

But Florida's freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had different ideas.

"The time has come for our generation to lead the new American century," he said as he announced he was running for president.

Rubio wasn't going to wait his turn behind his mentor Jeb Bush, and has largely outflanked Bush to date. 

But Rubio ends the year still trying to break out as many GOP voters' second favorite candidate, and he faces a surging Ted Cruz in the race to catch Trump.

Dr. Ben Carson, who makes a home in West Palm Beach, knows about surges in the polls.

The quintessential outsider, in a year when there seems to be a hunger for one, Carson challenged Trump atop the polls for a time, before falling back.

He stresses his experience as world-renown neurosurgeon.

"There's some good people in the political arena, but I'm not sure in some cases if they actually understand real life," Carson said.

Soon enough the pundits will make way for you, the voter.

The Florida roots and connections of the biggest names in the race will once again make the Sunshine State one of the places to watch in 2016.