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Rubio Suspends Campaign; NWFL Goes For Clinton, Trump

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Republican Marco Rubio ended his campaign for the Republican nomination for president Tuesday night, after a humiliating loss in his home state of Florida.

Billionaire Donald Trump took Florida and its 99 delegates, with a 46-27% win over Rubio. Ted Cruz was third with 17% with John Kasich – who won his home state of Ohio over Trump – with only 7%.

“While it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016, or maybe ever, and while today my campaign is suspended,” said Rubio to supporters in Miami, “The fact that I’d even come this far is evidence of how special America truly is.”

In the western Panhandle, Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton were the big winners. Trump over Rubio 40-26% in Escambia County, and 46-23% in Santa Rosa. In Okaloosa County, it’s Trump over Rubio 45-22%.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won by a 2-1 margin in Escambia over Bernie Sanders. But there were much closer races in Santa Rosa, with Clinton winning 48-44%, and taking Sanders 52-43% in Okaloosa. Clinton gets the lion’s share of delegates.

Marco Rubio's decision to suspend was prompted by losses in all but three of the presidential nomination contests but Florida's winner-take-all primary proved the most devastating. Under Florida law, Rubio had to give up his Senate seat in order to run for the White House. Tuesday night, he took one more shot at Donald Trump.

“The politics of resentment against other people will not just leave us a fractured [Republican] party, but they’re going to leave us a fractured nation,” said Rubio. “They’re going to leave us as a nation where people literally hate each other because they have different political opinions.”

Rubio said he tried to run a campaign that is at the same time both realistic about the challenges facing the country, and optimistic about entering into a new American century.

“A campaign to be a president that would love all of the American people, even the ones that don’t love you back,” said Rubio. “This is the right way forward for our party; this is the right way forward for our country.”

The Cuban-American Rubio drew a solid majority of the Hispanic vote including about two-thirds of Cubans. But Hispanics only made up a fraction of primary voters and Trump won about half of the white vote.

Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University, says Rubio – in Southern parlance – bit off more than he could chew.

“He really rolled the dice on this election, and he proved not ready for prime time,” Zelden said. “Organizationally, presentationally in debates, and of course he picked the wrong time to run. He was a perfect candidate to run four years ago.”

Another possible indication that the Rubio campaign had seen the writing on the wall was his campaign asking Ohio voters to vote for John Kasich instead of Rubio. Kasich won Ohio Tuesday night. That’s seen by some as a move aimed at blocking Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed for the GOP nomination heading to Cleveland in mid-July.

For Marco Rubio, the next political challenge could come in the 2018 race for governor. Rick Scott is term-limited and the seat will be open.