MANATEE -- Republican presidential campaigns are ramping up in Manatee County, giving some insight on why Donald Trump has a whopping 32-point lead in a recent Florida poll.
Kathleen King, chairwoman of the Manatee County Republican Party since 2006, said the campaigns for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio have been established in the county, and campaigns for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have preferred to work mainly through social media so far. But the Trump campaign established itself early and loudly.
"Believe it or not, we're still in the very early stages," King said. "The Trump campaign has been very aggressive."
A Florida Atlantic University poll released Monday had Trump with 48 percent of the vote, Cruz with 16 percent, Rubio with 11 percent and Bush at 10 percent.
Manatee has significantly more registered Republican voters than Democrats, with 90,865 people registered Republican, 66,246 registered Democrat and 56,153 registered other.
Donna Hayes, a former Manatee County commissioner and the Manatee chair for the Trump campaign, said she was asked to join the Trump campaign in October. Though she said she's seen more representation recently, she didn't see a lot of action from other candidates when she first started on the campaign.
"I see great Trump representation everywhere," Hayes said. "But I don't know about other campaigns."
King, who has served as an executive board member of the Florida GOP four times, said though Florida becomes a focus point in elections, it's still relatively early. After early votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada throughout the month of February comes what's known as Super Tuesday, when 15 states have primaries on March 1. Several other states then have their primaries before Florida's, which is on March 15.
"Once people start casting ballots in Iowa, we'll have a better idea of how those numbers will go," King said. "Most campaigns are focusing on those early states right now."
Rubio's Manatee County campaign chair is Rob Hartwell, president of Hartwell Capitol Consulting, a lobbying company. He could not be reached by phone on Friday. King is unsure of who was chosen county campaign chair for the Bush campaign, and a call to Florida Director Pablo Diaz was not returned.
King said she didn't want to speak to who she believes the preferred Republican candidate is in Manatee at the risk of it sounding like an endorsement. But she did say the aggressiveness of the Trump campaign has likely contributed to Trump's successful poll numbers.
"Some candidates are louder than others, if you will," King said. "Exposure and voters and volunteers are going to help your numbers, and they obviously have strong networks here."
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby