rubio supporting gop nominee carroll sot nr_00011913.jpg
rubio supporting gop nominee carroll sot nr_00011913.jpg
Now playing
01:56
Rubio: 'I'll support nominee, but it's getting harder'
MELBOURNE, FL - MARCH 14:  Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) greets supporters while campaigning at That Little Restaurant March 14, 2016 in Melbourne, Florida. Florida holds its presidential primary tomorrow.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images
MELBOURNE, FL - MARCH 14: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) greets supporters while campaigning at That Little Restaurant March 14, 2016 in Melbourne, Florida. Florida holds its presidential primary tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:27
CNN projection: Rubio wins Florida primary
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (left) confers with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (right) as U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee October 31, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (left) confers with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (right) as U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee October 31, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Now playing
03:04
Rubio, McCain test Trump's down ballot impact
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28:  U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens during a news conference on a comprehensive immigration reform framework January 28, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A group of bipartisan senate members have reached to a deal of outlines to reform the nation immigration laws that will provide a pathway for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country to citizenship.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens during a news conference on a comprehensive immigration reform framework January 28, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A group of bipartisan senate members have reached to a deal of outlines to reform the nation immigration laws that will provide a pathway for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country to citizenship. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
05:52
Rubio: Why I'm against Collins gun control amendment
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) share a moment during a news conference on a comprehensive immigration reform framework Monday.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) share a moment during a news conference on a comprehensive immigration reform framework Monday.
Now playing
01:08
Rubio says it's a 'safe assumption' he will run again
Marco Rubio on The Lead
CNN
Marco Rubio on The Lead
Now playing
01:16
Rubio: Plagiarism controversy doesn't matter
CNN
Now playing
01:25
Marco Rubio: Istanbul airport attack 'ISIS directed'
Senate TV
Now playing
03:28
Rubio discusses decision to leave Senate
CNN
Now playing
00:49
Marco Rubio: Not God's plan that I be president in 2016
CNN
Now playing
00:59
Rubio says Trump picking him for V.P. would backfire
OKATIE, SC - FEBRUARY 11:  Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks a campaign town hall meeting at the Sun City Hilton Head's Magnolia Hall February 11, 2016 in Okatie, South Carolina. Earlier in the week Rubio placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary, behind fellow GOP candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump, who won with 35 percent of the vote.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File
OKATIE, SC - FEBRUARY 11: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks a campaign town hall meeting at the Sun City Hilton Head's Magnolia Hall February 11, 2016 in Okatie, South Carolina. Earlier in the week Rubio placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary, behind fellow GOP candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump, who won with 35 percent of the vote. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:22
Rubio: Jeb's lock on Florida money was costly 2016 hurdle
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14:  Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:35
Rubio says he walked into 'trap' laid by Christie in N.H. Debate
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06:  Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:39
Rubio on running against one-time mentor Jeb Bush
marco rubio trump attack embarrassed sot_00001028.jpg
marco rubio trump attack embarrassed sot_00001028.jpg
Now playing
00:59
Rubio 'embarrassed' by his personal attack on Trump
Now playing
01:30
Miami's Cubans discuss Sen. Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio Trump rally violence election sotu_00000000.jpg
CNN
Marco Rubio Trump rally violence election sotu_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:29
Rubio: Someone could die at Trump rally
CNN
Now playing
02:31
Rubio to Trump: I am correct, not politically correct
CNN Republican Debate at the University of Miami.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
CNN Republican Debate at the University of Miami.
Now playing
02:35
Donald Trump, Marco Rubio spar over Cuba
OKATIE, SC - FEBRUARY 11:  Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks a campaign town hall meeting at the Sun City Hilton Head's Magnolia Hall February 11, 2016 in Okatie, South Carolina. Earlier in the week Rubio placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary, behind fellow GOP candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump, who won with 35 percent of the vote.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File
OKATIE, SC - FEBRUARY 11: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks a campaign town hall meeting at the Sun City Hilton Head's Magnolia Hall February 11, 2016 in Okatie, South Carolina. Earlier in the week Rubio placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary, behind fellow GOP candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump, who won with 35 percent of the vote. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:02
Marco Rubio 'not proud' of some Trump attacks
rubio mocks trump tweets rally sot ath_00023314.jpg
CNN
rubio mocks trump tweets rally sot ath_00023314.jpg
Now playing
02:38
Rubio mocks Trump at Dallas rally
cnn houston debate recap origwx nws_00001511.jpg
cnn houston debate recap origwx nws_00001511.jpg
Now playing
01:30
CNN's Houston GOP debate in 90 seconds
marco rubio anti-establishment record dnt tuchman ac_00010517.jpg
marco rubio anti-establishment record dnt tuchman ac_00010517.jpg
Now playing
02:00
Marco Rubio looks to avoid 'establishment' label

Story highlights

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday that he still plans to support the Republican nominee, but it's "getting harder every day"

Rubio is fighting for votes in his home state of Florida, where front-runner Donald Trump leads in polls for the crucial March 15 primary

(CNN) —  

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday that he still plans to support the Republican nominee, but it’s “getting harder every day.”

The comments, made three days before critical primaries in several states, including Florida and Ohio, represent an escalation in Rubio’s rhetoric, and follow a Republican debate earlier this month in which Rubio vowed to back Trump were he to become the GOP’s standard-bearer.

“I still, at this moment, continue to intend to support the Republican nominee,” Rubio told reporters in Largo, Florida. “But (it’s) getting harder every day.”

Rubio added, “I believe Donald Trump as our nominee is going to shatter and fracture the Republican Party and the conservative movement. I think it’s already having that function.”

The Florida Republican returned to a theme he advanced during CNN’s GOP debate Thursday – that words have consequences – as he weighed in on the protests at Trump’s Friday rally in Chicago. The Trump campaign postponed the event amid security concerns and scuffles among protesters and supporters.

“I think we also have to look at the rhetoric coming from the front-runner in the presidential campaign,” Rubio said. “Someone who’s basically encouraged people in the audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like.”

Rubio said if the anger from voters continues, the country will “continue to be ripped apart at the seams.”

“There’s a broader issue in our political culture in this country. And this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration,” Rubio said, adding later, “I’m sad for this country.”

On Saturday afternoon, Trump resumed to calling Rubio a “choker,” an insult he’s used before on the Florida senator.

“What is he? He’s a choke artist who never goes to vote,” Trump said at a rally in Cleveland, referencing Rubio’s attendance rate in the Senate. “Who the hell wants him to represent you? Who? So I think Marco’s got a lot of problems.”

In an interview with The New York Times that was published on Saturday, Rubio likened Trump to a third-world dictator.

“Most countries around the world that are failures are because they deposit their hopes in a person, a strong leader who comes forward and says ‘Put me in power. And I will make the country better,’” Rubio told the paper.

“That’s exactly what he’s doing,” Rubio continued. “The rhetoric reminds me of third-world strongmen.”

In an interview after the rally was postponed on Friday night, CNN’s Don Lemon asked Trump if he had any regrets about the charged rhetoric at his rallies.

“I don’t have regrets,” Trump said. “These were very, very bad protesters. These were bad dudes. They were rough, tough guys.”

According to the latest CNN poll of polls, Trump holds a substantial lead over Rubio in Florida, 40% to 26%, respectively. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has 18% of the vote and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 8%.