Marco Rubio put an end to his collapsing presidential campaign Tuesday after getting battered by Republican front-runner Donald Trump in Rubio’s home state of Florida.
“There’s nothing more you could have done,” Rubio reassured dejected supporters gathered in the cramped lobby of Florida International University’s basketball arena. “While we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side.”
He blamed the “political establishment” for failing to pay heed to real frustrations from conservative voters. The Florida senator said voters repeatedly showed their complete disregard for politicians, beginning even before the 2010 tea-party wave that got Rubio elected. Yet their concerns went unheard, and their leaders need to do better, he said.
“I understand all of these frustrations, and yet when I decided to run for president, I decided to run a campaign that was realistic on all of these challenges,” he said. “From a political standpoint, the easiest thing to have done in this campaign is to jump on all of those anxieties.”
In an indirect jab at Trump, Rubio added a plea to the Republican electorate: “I ask the American people: Do not give into the fear.”
Rubio congratulated Trump from stage but said he hadn’t spoken to him.
His campaign seemed to know what was coming. It booked an unusually small venue — the lobby of Florida International University’s basketball arena — that appeared to portend bad news. At one point, it looked like it contained more reporters than Rubio supporters.
Rubio left a race that once had an unprecedented two candidates from Miami without a Floridian. Trump calls Florida his second home but lives in New York.
The hometown crowd at the university where Rubio has worked as a politics professor interrupted Rubio repeatedly, in what seemed like an attempt to extend Rubio’s candidacy for just a little while longer. Even a protester broke in, something Rubio has gotten used to in his years in office.
When Rubio finally uttered the words that he’d suspend his campaign, his supporters groaned. “No!” a woman yelled, even though Rubio’s decision had been evident. Early Florida results showed him losing by nearly 20 percentage points, as some of the most dramatic polls in recent days had predicted.
I ask the American people: Do not give into the fear.
Marco Rubio in an indirect jab at Donald Trump
Shortly before Trump was declared the winner, Rubio volunteers exchanged forlorn hugs. Shortly after, and by coincidence, Avicii’s Wake Me Up played. As in, “wake me up when it’s all over.”
When Fox News announced the results, a few in the crowd boos. Others half-heartedly chanted, “We want Marco!”
Once it was all over, Rubio hugged his wife and four children and left the building.