Rush of absentee ballots show enthusiasm in Florida ahead of primary

(Photo by Eric Engman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Eric Engman/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Votes are already being cast in Florida by the hundreds of thousands, two weeks ahead of the crucial primary in this state.

More than half a million Floridians have already sent in their absentee ballots, according to the Miami Herald.

That’s already more than the 335,000 voters who participated in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses combined, the Herald noted.

In addition, tens of thousands of voters took part in early voting this week.

Overall turnout is expected to be heavy in the March 15 primary, which will mean a boost or burial for the campaign of South Floridian Marco Rubio, who is backed by the so-called Republican establishment.

The GOP has seen Rubio, who is a member of the U.S. Senate, as the best anti-Trump alternative, but Florida remains an uncertainty, with many polls showing the real estate mogul leading there among Republican voters.

More than 303,000 GOP voters and 261,000 Democratic voters have sent in their absentee ballots, the Herald said, citing University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith, who is monitoring the returns of such ballots.

Florida’s primary is winner-take-all in terms of delegates. And both Rubio and Trump have been campaigning hard in Florida.

"We're going to win Florida," Rubio said in a CBS interview. "Florida is not going to vote for a con artist like Donald Trump."

More than 40 percent of the absentee GOP voters who have sent in their ballots did not vote in 2012, the Herald said, suggesting the kind of excitement over this election that has been seen around the country.

"This might bode well for (Donald Trump), as the competitive GOP primary appears to be drawing in a sizable number of Republicans — and absentee voters at that — who in previously primary contests have sat on the sidelines," said Smith, according to the Herald.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is considered the favorite to win Florida over her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Ellen Barnett, 62, said she "couldn't wait to vote" for Trump.

"He loves America. He's a businessman who knows what he's doing," she said. She described Rubio as "too young."

Hortensia Lee, a Democrat and Cuban-American from Miami, is choosing Clinton, explaining that "the country is not ready for a socialist like Bernie Sanders."

More than 4.2 million of Florida’s registered voters are Republican, 4.6 million are Democrat, and 2.9 million have no party affiliation and are precluded from voting in the primary.

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