Republican Candidates to Talk Economy in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott hosts 2016 hopefuls in his delegate-rich state

ByABC News
June 2, 2015, 7:25 AM
Florida Gov. Rick Scott waits to speak at the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay elementary school, June 1, 2015, in Miami.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott waits to speak at the Dr. Carlos J. Finlay elementary school, June 1, 2015, in Miami.
Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

— -- Republican presidential candidates have plenty of good reasons to compete in Florida this year -- 99 of them, to be exact.

That's the number of delegates Florida will carry this year.

The GOP presidential field may feature two statewide officeholders from Florida, but Gov. Rick Scott is hoping everyone comes to play in his delegate-rich state in 2016.

"I think everyone should compete," Scott told ABC News in a recent phone interview. "I think the one who has the best plan for the economy is going to win."

In the hopes of sorting that out, Scott has invited 2016 contenders to Orlando for an economic summit at Disney World today, and top-tier candidates have flocked to the Sunshine State.

Taking the stage soon after 9 a.m. in a conference center at Disney will be Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush.

Notably absent in Orlando will be Marco Rubio, who will address the summit by video. He'll remain in Washington, where the Senate is still grappling with how and whether to extend PATRIOT Act provisions that expired Sunday night, his spokesman told ABC.

The goal in bringing them here, Scott said, is to focus the campaign (for a day at least) on candidates' economic plans, which Scott says will be key to winning Floridians' votes.

"I know everyone that's coming, and they're all friends," Scott said. "I think it's going to be likely one of those individuals is going to be the Republican nominee."

The GOP 2016 race features two candidates who've won statewide races in Florida--former governor Jeb Bush and sitting U.S. senator Marco Rubio--and their presence has already shown at least one sign of leading other candidates to avoid the state, as Scott Walker recently suggested he might consider skipping Florida's primary after Bush and Rubio showed well in polls.

Adding to Florida's importance in the primary this year, and perhaps to Walker's reluctance, is the fact that Florida's large delegate total will remain intact. After losing half its delegates in 2012 for moving its primary date earlier, Florida will retain all of its delegates in 2016, as it's chosen to adhere to the Republican National Committee's stricter calendar rules this time around.

And unlike many other 2016 primaries, Florida's will be a winner-take-all contest: Whoever gets the most votes will win all the delegates.

Florida will send 99 delegates to the GOP convention in 2016, third most among all states behind California and Texas. It will vote March 15, the first day states are eligible to hold winner-take-all primaries under the RNC's rules.

That's a hefty total, and the summit carries added importance for anyone looking to snag it: The event will help Scott make his own decision on whom to back in 2016.

"This is going to be part of my decision on when I endorse, who I endorse, so I'm going to be listening to what their plans are," Scott told ABC.

This story has been updated to reflect the development that Rubio will not attend the summit in person.