Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suspended his campaign for the presidency on Tuesday, following a crushing primary loss in his home state of Florida.
Just as his mentor former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was before him, Rubio was outdone by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who won Florida and seems poised to become the Republican presidential nominee.
Rubio’s loss was not totally unexpected. After disappointing losses in the March 8 primaries, his big-dollar contributors began publicly expressing doubts about his campaign. Rubio finished dead last in both Mississippi and Michigan, winning no delegates. On the same day, a national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also placed him last, Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-FL) and even Ohio governor and perpetual underdog John Kasich.
Still, most donors and Rubio himself said he would hold strong until Florida. But if he didn’t win Florida, Rubio acknowledged it would be tough for him to move forward.
“If this community doesn’t vote in historic numbers, I don’t know if I will be able to win,” he said.
Despite primary contests in multiple states Tuesday, Rubio had not campaigned anywhere except Florida in the last week. On Sunday, he held his last campaign rally in Miami, his hometown. At that point, he had still not yet beaten Donald Trump in any poll. Most showed him in second place, except the CBS Battleground tracker, which put him in third.
Rubio reflected on his candidacy in an interview with the Miami Herald published on Sunday.
“I don’t think this year’s anything like the past — or anything like the future,” Rubio said, speaking of Trump, the blustery billionaire whose campaign has brought bigotry and violence to the center of the 2016 election.
“My whole life, I’ve been told, ‘Being humble is a virtue.’ And now being humble is a weakness, being vain, self-absorbed is a virtue,” Rubio said. “Leadership is not inciting people to get angrier. That’s not leadership. You know what it is? That’s called demagoguery.”
Over the course of his campaign, Rubio had mostly tried to ignore Trump. But he decided to switch gears and go on the attack in late February. His campaign even started selling merchandise with the logo #NeverTrump, urging people to never vote for Trump in the primary.
But many opined that Rubio’s change of tone was too little, too late. Indeed, despite Rubio’s #NeverTrump campaign, he never fully disavowed the billionaire. On Saturday, he said he still intended to support Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee.
“I continue to intend to support the Republican nominee,” he said, “but it’s getting harder every day.”