Marco Rubio has dropped out of the Republican race on Tuesday night after a difficult loss in his native Florida, delivering a speech that decried the politics of resentment used by opponent Donald Trump and possibly setting up a longer political future for the Florida Senator.
Donald Trump took the winner-take-all contest in Florida, notching 46 percent of the vote to Rubio’s 27 percent. Polls had shown that Rubio, Florida’s junior Senator, was trailing Trump by more than 10 points going into Tuesday’s primary voting.
Rubio took the stage in Florida just after 8:10 p.m. ET, thanking voters who had supported him from the first primaries and caucuses. Rubio defended his choice to run a positive campaign when he admitted that it could have been more politically advantageous to play to the fears of voters.
“People are angry and very frustrated,” he said, as fans interrupted his speech. He went on to say that Americans have been upset since the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008.
Rubio said he could have chosen to play to the voters’ anger, but chose a higher path.
“In a year like that it would have been the easiest way to win, but its not what’s best for America,” he said, adding that such a strategy would lead to a fractured nation and resentment between Americans.
Though Marco Rubio did not mention Donald Trump by name, the message seemed to be delivered directly at the Republican frontrunner.
Marco Rubio just dropped out of the race, despite endless claims that he would win Florida (he didn't).https://t.co/CIAssGMy3k— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) March 16, 2016
Rubio called for a new political establishment, one that is more focused on solving problems than winning elections.
He called for a movement based “not on fear, not on anger, not on preying on people’s frustrations, a conservative movement that believes in the principles of our Constitution, protects our rights and limits the power of government.”
There had been signs in recent days that Marco Rubio would drop out if he had lost in Florida, seen as his last chance to re-invigorate his campaign and take on Donald Trump. MSNBC noted earlier in the week that Rubio had been trying to set the tone for his exit and what would come next in his political future.
“But if Rubio is going down, he’s going down in extremely compelling fashion.”
“Breaking from the rigidly disciplined and unflappable style that’s characterized his campaign until now, Rubio has used his final days to offer an elegiac and nuanced critique of America in the age of Trump.”
“My whole life I’ve been told being humble is a virtue, and now being humble is a weakness and being vain and self-absorbed is somehow a virtue,” Rubio told an audience of 1,200 in West Palm Beach on Monday evening. “My whole life I have been told no matter how you may feel about someone, you respect everyone because we are all children of the same God. Now being respectful to one another is considered political correctness.”
But though he dropped out of the Republican race, Marco Rubio left open the possibility of a future race, saying that his fate and future were in God’s hands and “we wait eagerly to see what lies ahead.”
[Picture by Win McNamee/Getty Images]