Six years ago, Marco Rubio rode a wave of insurgent resentment toward the Republican Party to become "the first Tea Party senator." But in the years since, the rebel became the establishment. And tonight, the same anti-Beltway GOP sentiment that sent him to Washington sent him tumbling out of the race for the White House.
After Donald Trump crushed him in virtually every district in his home state outside of Miami-Dade, Rubio officially suspended his campaign tonight.
"While we are on the right side, this year we are not on the winning side," he said in a concession speech that criticized Trump and blamed a "tidal wave" for the loss.
The campaign's end marks a sudden halt to a meteoric rise for the onetime West Miami commissioner. After skyrocketing to become a powerful speaker of the house in Tallahassee, Rubio perfectly timed his leap into a 2010 U.S. Senate race marked by Tea Party rage.
After shocking ex-Gov. Charlie Crist in the primary, Rubio rolled through a three-way race against the now-independent Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek. His ambitions were never limited to the Senate, though.
"It's no secret that Marco wants to be the first Cuban-American president," Sen. Steve Geller, the top Democrat in the Florida Senate when Rubio was house speaker, told New Times in 2010.
Early in this campaign season, he seemed to have a good shot — especially after landing a surprising third-place finish in Iowa, topping his onetime mentor Jeb Bush. Rubio seemed poised to become the "establishment" candidate who could topple Trump once Bush dropped out.
But the establishment candidate turned out to be the opposite of what GOP voters wanted. In 2010, we had this to say of Rubio's rise: "[He] is a world-class opportunist with an uncanny habit of being in the right place at the right time."
Until now. There was no place wronger than being than stuck between Trump's populist drumbeats and a GOP base enraged with D.C.
Rubio didn't help himself, of course, with a series of gaffes, including a terrible malfunctioning-robot debate in New Hampshire and the odd decision to go full Trump, even making jokes about the Donald's allegedly tiny penis.
None of it may have mattered in the end. GOP primary voters are apparently hellbent on ripping their party apart from the ground up, one Trump vote at a time. The second Rubio became the choice of the D.C. elites, his chance was shot.
Tonight's vote was just the final, humiliating confirmation. Florida results are still pouring in, but Rubio may not have won a single county outside of Miami-Dade. Trump thrashed him in his own backyard.
When you lose that soundly, the jokes on the way out aren't going to be kind:
Countdown to grand opening of Rubio & Penelas abogados de accidentes, mala práctica médica, inmigración y bancarrota https://t.co/XqVgQi8BOb— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) March 16, 2016
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
I feel kind of bad for Marco Rubio. So much so that I may let him sell me a car next year at Braman Honda.— Jake Cline (@jakeflorida) March 16, 2016
hey pundits struggling to explain Rubio's fall: he represented a dying GOP elitist class & had the personality of a toilet brush— kept_simple (@kept_simple) March 16, 2016
I submit this Marco Rubio face for future replacement of the crying Jordan meme. It works over original Jordan pic pic.twitter.com/ZWQluhJQ95— dan Strafford (@DanStrafford) March 16, 2016