Daily Egyptian

Fallen star: Marco Rubio suspends campaign after Trump trouncing

By Arek Sarkissian, Naples Daily News

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a first-term Florida senator once a rising Republican star, ended his presidential campaign Tuesday after a trouncing in his own state and a series of losses this primary season across the country that doomed his higher ambitions.

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

Rubio came in second in Tuesday’s Florida GOP primary with 27 percent of the votes behind Donald Trump, who earned 46 percent of the vote. A loss of such a size in Florida is devastating for Rubio, who won his Senate seat in 2010 just short of a majority with 49 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race.

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“It’s a stunning loss for Florida’s junior senator,” said Carole Jean Jordan, the former chairwoman of the Florida Republican Party.

She said what was spent in advertising against Trump for the end result was impressive, adding, “He just has a huge lead. You’d have to be foolish to think Trump’s not going to be the nominee.”

Rubio’s decision to suspend his campaign 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, Charlie Crist, to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s not shocking, but I didn’t expect it to come tonight,” said Kyle Foley, a GOP media consultant from Orlando. “I didn’t think there was a shot a week ago, but once you lose your own home state, the narrative is there to tell you that there’s no chance.”

Foley, along with other Florida Republicans and Rubio supporters, noted the road for Rubio to the party’s nomination was difficult, and some said he should have considered dropping out earlier.

Tallahassee-based GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich said Rubio should have followed former Gov. Jeb Bush’s lead after he dropped out following the South Carolina primary. Rubio could have preserved his political reputation in his home state, Stipanovich said.

“In that regard, (Bush) may have been pretty wise,” Stipanovich said. “Certainly, it’s not good in the short or long term to get waxed in your own state.”

Rubio’s loss left one supporter questioning whether he would continue to support the Republican Party. Longtime GOP strategist and die-hard Rubio supporter Jacob Perry said he briefly thought of leaving the party altogether.

“I’ll say I’m suddenly at the thought of casting my last Republican vote today,” said Perry, of Stuart. “I won’t have anything to do with Trump.”

Tallahassee-based lobbyist Nick Iarossi, a Rubio supporter, said even if Rubio knew the odds were not good, he owed it to his home state to run in its primary.

“I would have looked at it as quitting before your home state,” Iarossi said. “I much more respect a man who, knowing he’s going into a tough battle, and he is willing to go into that tough fight even if it hurts his brand or his future.”

One of Rubio’s political allies from his eight years in the Florida House of Representatives said he would stand behind him despite the loss.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, who had been picked by then House Speaker Rubio to become House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman, said Rubio’s message of the country’s future did not match the anger and frustration among GOP voters that draws them to Trump.

“I’ve lost plenty of races and there are some times when it’s just not your time,” Snyder said. “I know him and I will do anything to support him just like any cop would do when another one of us is in trouble.”

Contact Daily News reporter [email protected] or 850-559-7620.

Washington correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan and the Associate Press contributed to this report.

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(c)2016 Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.)

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