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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Take The Stage At Florida Summit

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ORLANDO (CBSMiami) -- Republican presidential hopefuls are taking the stage and speaking during a two-day summit in Orlando.

The Sunshine Summit will host all 13 major candidates. Front runners like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush get the stage Friday. The rest will go Saturday.   

Rubio kicked off the Summit Friday morning, talking up the Republican Party.

"We as a party are blessed to have so many good candidates. The Democrats can't even come up with one," said Rubio. "You know why our field is so strong. There are some big differences between the Republicans and the Democrats running for president. For example, we don't have any socialists running in the Republican party for president and none of our candidates are under investigation by the FBI."

But he was also critical of both sides.

"I know that this is a Republican gathering so perhaps saying something about your party that is not kind is not always the right thing to do," said Rubio.

He blamed both parties for the road our country is on.

"That $19 trillion debt is a bi-partisan debt," said Rubio.

The convention is meant to address Florida's last two presidential elections that went to Democrats.

"We don't have a message problem.  We have a marketing problem," said Blaise Ingoglia, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF).

The party hopes to bring about changes by putting the candidates, in Florida, to motivate conservatives.

"We need to take power out of Washington and back to we the people. That is what this campaign is all about," said Cruz.

Bush, who's on his home turf in Florida, is lagging in the polls, even behind his protege Rubio.

"If you want talker, maybe I'm not the guy.  But if you want a doer.  Someone that's done it.  Someone who has taken on the tough challenge then I am your candidate," said Bush on Friday.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in the home state of two rivals and made a case to win its Republican presidential primary.

Cruz received a more enthusiastic reception than Rubio.

He said Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They're Southern states where a lot of immigrants live and they're low-tax states where the economy is growing.

He then joked, "We also share a similar dislike for snow."

Cruz said Florida's March 15th primary will be important in choosing a nominee and tells party activists they can select a true conservative.

He also told a life story similar to Rubio's. Both are sons of Cuban immigrants whose fathers worked low-paying jobs after arriving in the country.

Donald Trump said he was watching the fight between Sens. Cruz and Rubio about who's tougher on illegal immigration.

He reminded Republican Party activists on Friday that he took heat over comments he made on immigration when he began his campaign.

Trump told the packed room, "I was tougher when it wasn't very politically popular to be tougher."

Trump said he will stop "anchor babies," a term many Latinos find offensive that's used to describe citizenship granted to babies born to immigrants in the country illegally.

He also said Mexicans would "laugh so hard" if American women went to their country and had babies and tried to tell them the child was Mexican.

On Thursday night, Trump mocked his rival Ben Carson. The group also had a private event that headlined former Vice President Dick Cheney and Rubio.

Ben Carson was the last of seven presidential candidates to speak Friday at a two-day presidential summit in Orlando, Florida.

Carson used his time on stage to condemn the terror attacks in Paris.

Carson says that if he were president he would team up with U.S. allies to eliminate the "global jihadist movement," calling it an "existential threat" to the world.

The summit, held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel,  is also a way for the candidates to qualify for the March 15th presidential ballot.

Click here to read more about Campaign 2016.

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