Last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) told voters in Florida, “I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party.”
Tonight, Donald Trump won the Florida Republican primary and Rubio has suspended his campaign.
Rubio suspended his campaign after losing his home state of Florida by double-digits. Florida awards all of its ninety-nine delegates to the winner, providing a good bump for Trump.
Rubio had previously said that he would remain in the race regardless of his performance in Florida. He told reporters that he would be in Utah on Wednesday morning to campaign. However, Rubio and his family walked out in front of cheering supporters, and a pro-Trump protester, and he announced that he would be dropping out of the race. Rubio buried the lead and gave a length speech with his announcement at the end. However, Rubio subtly hinted at a suspension when he referred to his campaign in the past tense. He began by congratulating Trump on his big win, supporters responded by booing. However, Rubio said, “We live in a republic and our voters make these decisions.”
“While we are on the right side,” he said, “this year, we will not be on the winning side.”
Rubio’s loss is another blow for the establishment in a year where voters have almost completely rejected the will of the party. Rubio attempted to run as a unifier, but analysts say by reaching out to everyone he won with no one. In most states, Rubio was typically second or third. However, he would often paint those top three finishes as victories. His campaign said the strategy was to go into a state roughly a week beforehand, win endorsements, and barnstorm the state. However, that strategy largely failed in many states.
In the end, Rubio won three contests, the Washington, D.C. primary, the Minnesota caucus, and the Puerto Rico primary.
For a brief period of time, Rubio decided to take a more negative approach to Trump. He began making personal, negative attacks on Trump, including his appearance. Rubio even brought up the size of Trump’s hands as a metaphor for the businessman’s private male parts. The attacks did not work and largely backfired on Rubio. Rubio backtracked on the strategy and claimed that they embarrassed him and his children.
As Rubio has suspended his campaign, his delegates remain pledged to the Florida senator. Rubio could release his delegates so they can vote as they please or he can use his over one hundred delegates to be a power broker in a contested convention, if one occurs.