Rubio drops out after humiliating Florida loss

Posted at 8:28 PM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 22:16:33-04

MIAMI -- Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio dropped out of the race for president on Tuesday, ending his White House bid after a humbling loss in his home state to Donald Trump.

"It is not God's plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever," Rubio told a crowd of supporters in Miami.

While he didn't name winner Trump, Rubio warned against embracing his brand of divisive politics: "I ask the American people, do not give into the fear, do not give into the frustration," Rubio said.

Rubio's decision was prompted by losses in all but three of the presidential nomination contests, but Florida's winner-take-all primary proved the most devastating. Only six years earlier, he was a tea party favorite who crushed the GOP's "establishment" candidate to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

But the political tables turned on the Florida senator as a 2016 presidential candidate who was lambasted as mainstream in a year when voters cried out for an outsider.

In the final week, he dedicated time and resources almost exclusively to the Sunshine State, urging voters to stop Trump from "hijacking" the Republican Party. He went so far as to tell his supporters in Ohio to vote for Buckeye State governor John Kasich since his chances were better to win there.

Despite his intense rivalry with Trump, Rubio only indirectly criticized him during much of the campaign. He pivoted to an all-out assault on the businessman's character and ethics after a dismal March 1 Super Tuesday performance when he clinched only one of the 11 contests.

In recent weeks, the attacks deviated from policy to personal. At one point, Rubio equated Trump's small hands with his manhood. Trump began regularly referring to the senator as "little Marco." But the strategy backfired with voters and donors and Rubio later said he regretted the attacks.

In the Iowa caucuses, he came in a better-than-expected third place, nearly beating Trump for second. He then banked on a big showing in New Hampshire but a stunningly poor debate performance - in which he frequently repeated talking points and was called a "scripted" politician by rival Chris Christie - led to a dismal fifth place.

"Our disappointment tonight is not on you. It's on me," he told supporters that night.

Rubio rebounded in South Carolina, where he came in second place behind Trump and had edged Ted Cruz, Nevada, where Rubio spent part of his childhood, delivered another second place finish.

But questions arose about which state Rubio could realistically win. The campaign dismissed the chatter, saying they were running a national campaign but the doubts grew deafening on March 1, Super Tuesday, when Rubio collected just one won of 11 contests.

The losses only mounted for Rubio, who only managed to win Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. And the final blow came at home.