Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday night rejoiced in the Super Tuesday results, saying “his [Trump] numbers are coming down and our numbers are going up!”
He was declared the winner in Minnesota with slightly more than one third of the votes and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump at his heels.
But he was third in most of the rest of the states.
“We never said Super Tuesday was our night,” he said, “Now the map begins to look really good for our campaign.”
With Trump declared the winner in most of the states – Cruz won Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska – Rubio is looking forward to the fight over his home state of Florida in two weeks – and says he doesn’t believe polls that show Trump ahead by 20 points there.
Rubio, who did not win Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada earlier, was third in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. He also missed the 20 percent threshold to take a pro-rated share of the delegates from Texas, the big prize of the night.
While blasting Trump as a con artist, he played the role of a multi-state winner.
“We believe in Reagan principles! We believe in the Constitution! We believe the world is a better place when America is the strongest country on Earth. And we know we’re strongest when we stand with allies like Israel! We stand for freedom in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua! These things are not negotiable!” he said.
“Trump said he won’t take sides with Israel against its enemies. When I’m president, we are taking sides! We’re on Israel’s side. And the world will know it, because on my first day, we’ll cancel Obama’s deal with Iran. When I’m president, I’ll follow the Constitution, not violate it every day! On my first day, I’ll cancel every single one of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders.
“When I’m president, we’ll have free enterprise! I didn’t start out with a ‘small $2-million loan from my dad,’ I didn’t inherit $100 million. We’ll save Medicare, balance our budget. We’ll repeal and replace Obamacare. We’ll have a real war on terror. They’ll be eradicated; they’ll go to Guantanamo. We’ll take care of our veterans. We’ll celebrate our police and firefighters. We’ll defend your Second Amendment right to protect yourself and your family.”
Rubio promised he would campaign in all 50 states and every territory if that’s what it takes to gain the nomination.
“We’re gonna be in this race as long as it takes to stop Donald Trump from getting 1,237 delegates.”
He explained his reason for optimism: “Five days ago we began to explain to the American people that Donald Trump is a con artist. And in just five days we have seen the impact that it’s having all across the country. We are seeing in state after state, his number’s coming down, our number’s going up.”
He continued, “Two weeks from tonight, right here in Florida, we are going to send the message loud and clear that the party of Lincoln and Reagan and the presidency of the United States will never be held by a con artist.”
NBC’s Tom Brokaw took to Twitter to mock Rubio.
Jake Tapper, an anchor for CNN, came out and bluntly asked Rubio during a post-Super Tuesday results interview if he was living in a state of “denial” about his chances to beat Trump and win the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Tapper kicked off discussions by telling Rubio it was “not a good night for him,” given Trump’s sweep through seven states compared to the senator’s win of just one.
He asked, “Is it possible that your quarrel is not so much with Donald Trump as it is with Republican primary voters?”
Rubio responded by saying Tapper was “mis-analyzing the map” and explaining his campaign had won big in Virginia, coming in a very close second to Trump, and outright carried Minnesota.
Rubio also said his more aggressive campaign against Trump was turning the tide for him, and he expected his home state of Florida to earn a big win.
Tapper, however, didn’t see it.
“Senator, you keep saying that,” he said, of Rubio’s messaging that Trump was falling while he was rising, “and he keeps winning states. You’re talking about Virginia and that’s another state Donald Trump won. And I’m just wondering if there’s a certain amount of denial that you’re in this race.”
Rubio didn’t agree, and said the race still didn’t have a front-runner with enough momentum that was fueling everyone else to drop their bids.
“Usually at this point in the race, you’d have a front-runner and other people would be saying, ‘You need to drop out and rally around the front-runner for the sake of the party,” Rubio said. “They’re saying the opposite now. There will never come a time in this race where our supporters are asking us to get out and rally around Donald Trump.”
And he added a quick jab, saying if Trump won the nomination, it would mean the “end of the modern Republican Party.”
Cruz suggested to his supporters at a Texas rally that it is Rubio who should drop out.
“So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely. And that would be a disaster – for conservatives, and for the nation. And after tonight, we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat, and that will beat Donald Trump.”
Before Minnesota’s results were final, commentator Ann Coulter declared, “So far Marco Rubio has won precisely the same number of GOP primaries all year as Evander Holyfield.”
On Twitter, the judgments, however, were harsh. Dan Pfeiffer wrote, “Since none of the networks showed it, does anyone know if Rubio gave another victory speech?”
Aly Keves responded “Rubio is giving a rousing victory speech. Who wants to tell him?”
As Rubio exited the stage, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Donald Trump took over the airwaves.
“I know it was a very tough night for Sen. Marco Rubio, he had a tough night,” Trump said.