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By David Adams @dadams7308
Once seen as his party’s savior, Florida Senator Marco Rubio bowed out of the Republican presidential primary contest on Tuesday evening after suffering a humiliating defeat in his home state of Florida.
It was such a lopsided defeat for the former rising star that it left many asking whether Rubio has a political future, and Rubio himself questioning the Republican Pary's own leadership.
He came in second behind New York property tycoon Donald Trump by a stunning 18% margin, also coming in last in four other states: Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri.
“While we may be on the right side we will not be on the winning side,” Rubio told supporters in Miami, before announcing that he was suspending his campaign.
Rubio said he was caught “in the middle of a real political storm, a tsunami,” an apparent reference to the wave of angry voters propelling Trump's seemingly unstoppable campaign.
Without naming Trump, he warned that the party was on a dangerous course that threatened not just to fracture the Republican Party, but the nation as well.
In a surprise jab at the party leadership which had thrown its weight behind him, Rubio also blasted the party’s establishment accusing it of “looking down” at voters “as simple people.”
Rubio, who has often been accused of disloyalty by rivals, concluded saying “we need a new political establishment in our party.”
Meanwhile it was a good night for Democrat Hillary Clinton who beat rival Bernie Sanders in all five March 15 states, and by a landslide 31 points margin in Florida.
Rubio’s campaign fell apart in the last few weeks after he launched a clumsy offensive against Trump, even questioning his manhood in what he later admitted was an embarrassingly ill-conceived personal attack.
A media darling for much of the campaign, Rubio came under a withering barrage of negative articles and editorials by Florida media in the last week, criticizing his weak legislative record and political loyalty.
“He’s like an orchid,” veteran Republican strategist J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich told the Tampa Bay Times. “Attractive. But without deep roots.”
Others criticized him for stepping into the race after less than one term in the U.S. Senate, despite having blasted President Barack Obama for the same lack of experience.
Some fellow Republicans questioned his political future after such a devastating double-digit defeat in his home state. “He has four young kids. He probably needs to go to work for a while,” said former Republican Senator and fellow Cuban American, Mel Martinez, interviewed by WFTV in Orlando.
Despite some media speculation, Rubio, 44, has told friends he has no plans to run for Florida Governor. “I think he’ll probably go back to the private sector for a while,” said Martinez. “He’s a very talented person, he’s very young. I can’t imagine he doesn’t have another act in political life,” he added.
In a speech on Tuesday night at one of his resorts in Palm Beach, Trump congratulated Rubio on his campaign. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s got a great future,” said Trump.
Florida blogger and political consultant, Peter Schorsch, noted that Florida is an important bell-weather state with a long-running streak of picking the Republican Party nominee, one of just three states that backed the eventual winner in every presidential election cycle since 1956.
With Rubio now out of the race, some Republicans were in shock, contemplating the remaining field of Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich in a distant third.
“Good grief. The way this is going, I may need a paper bag to breath into and psychiatric treatment before this night is over,” Tweeted CNN Republican political analyst Ana Navarro, a Miami Republican who backed Bush and Rubio.
Later she added: “I'm one superstitious Hispanic. Thinking of supporting Trump in hopes of jinxing him.”
“While Marco's campaign came to an end tonight, his career is far from over. I expect we will see his name on the national scene again one day,” predicted Democratic Party strategist, Steve Schale.
“This is an odd electoral cycle and voters say they feel betrayed by the Republican Party,” said Helen Ferre, a Miami Republican who worked on the campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush campaign.
Rubio never made it clear where he stood, with one foot in the establishment and the other standing with the angry voters on the outside. “A majority feel that it (The Republican Party) is dominated by special interests who don't care about the general welfare of others or that the party is corrupt,” she said. “Marco didn't offer an alternative voice to that.”
Former Republican Party of Florida chairman, Al Cardenas, also a Bush supporter, added that Rubio had no chance in an election year that favored the angry-with-Washington voter over Rubio’s big tent message of youth and immigrant achievement.
“When political philosophical purity is in high demand, you can't try to navigate the full spectrum of your party's philosophical bandwidth. He was 2nd or 3rd option for too many voters and not enough of a first option,” he said.
"The anger and fear, preconditioned by conservative pundits in the media and cultural circumstances, motivated those voters looking for candidates who best fueled the flames of revenge and reverting to the past ‘Make America great again," he added.
In the last few days the influential Tampa Bay Times wrote that Rubio was “ not ready to be president,” and the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel said it there was no Republican candidate worth endorsing, while the Miami Herald endorsed Rubio late in the campaign after Bush dropped out.
“Throughout his political career, Rubio has focused on promoting himself and preparing for his next move rather than providing leadership to effectively address the challenges of the moment,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial.
“Relying on a charming personality and a smooth speaking style, he has been more talk than action, more gimmick than substance, more opportunist than committed public servant. The result is a thin resume, a reputation for failing to pay attention to detail and a tendency to bend when the political winds shift,” it wrote.
“Let's remember that Rubio's single term in the U.S. Senate has been devoid of a single significant accomplishment,” it added.