Sen. Marco Rubio suspended his presidential campaign on Tuesday after he failed to win his home state of Florida, forced to bow out after Republican frontrunner Donald Trump trounced him in his own backyard.
Rubio tried to position himself as the mainstream alternative to both Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He picked up endorsements from establishment Republicans and pitched himself as the only one who could win the November election.
Yet he fell victim to the same anti-establishment tide that propelled Trump to victories in more than a dozen other races across the nation, including a resounding victory Tuesday in Florida. Rubio, meanwhile, only won the caucuses in Minnesota and the votes in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
“We should have seen this coming,” he said in his concession speech in Miami.
He blamed the GOP furor for a political establishment that “looked down at conservatives as simple-minded people,” but said he resisted the urge to play to voters’ fears.
“I chose a different route and I’m proud of that. That would have been, in a year like this, the easiest way to win. But that is not what’s best for America,” he said. “The politics of resentment against other people will not only leave us as a fractured party, it will leave us as a fractured nation.”
He added: “It is clear that we are on the right side this year, we will not be on the winning side.”
It would be an understatement to describe Rubio’s defeat in Florida, the state that launched his political career, as a devastating loss. It was in Florida where he vaulted from state legislator to Florida House speaker to first-term U.S. senator and, finally, to a serious White House contender.
His political career, however, is far from over. Florida politicos say he could run for the governor’s office or eye another presidential bid in four years.
Five major states vote on Elimination Tuesday, which is shaping up to be the most pivotal day in the primary calendar. Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri hold primaries, and hundreds of delegates are up for grabs. It’s also the first time huge troves of delegates are at stake in winner-take-all Republicans contests.
For Republicans, the day could shape up to be a last gasp of the establishment as it searches for a way to halt Donald Trump’s march to the nomination. And for Democrats, it could be a day for Clinton to flex her muscles – or another troubling sign that the party has failed to coalesce around her.