Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) officially suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday night after suffering a bruising loss to Donald Trump in his home state of Florida.
“While today my campaign is suspended, the fact that I’ve even come this far is evidence of how special America truly is, and all the reason more why we must do all we can to ensure that this nation remains a special place,” Rubio said. “I ask the American people, do not give into the fear, do not give into the frustration. We can disagree about public policy. We can disagree about it vibrantly, passionately, but we are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful.”
Rubio’s exit leaves Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich the three remaining Republicans in a field that once had 17 candidates.
Rubio, who sounded choked up at times, essentially recapped his campaign’s message, and he also called for a conservative movement not built on “preying on people’s frustrations.” After recent unrest at Trump rallies, Rubio had sounded off about Trump having a responsibility not to stoke anger, and he pointed to the optimistic tone he’d hoped to strike with his campaign in his concession speech.
“After tonight it is clear that while we are on the right side, we are not on the winning side,” Rubio said.“While this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic about America.”
Rubio and Trump traded increasingly loaded barbs over the past month, at one point degenerating into name-calling and jokes about body parts, which Rubio later said he regretted. Polls showed Trump with a wide lead in Florida over the past month, and with 81 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Trump had 45.7 percent of the vote to Rubio’s 27.1 percent.
Rubio’s crowd booed when he congratulated Trump on his “big win,” but he admonished them that “our voters make these decisions, and we respect that very much.”