- Florida senator staked campaign on winning his home state
- Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina also up for grabs in primaries
Rubio suspended his campaign as he became the real estate mogul’s latest political victim.
"After tonight it is clear that while we are on the right side, we are not on the winning side," Rubio said from Miami. "While this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic about America."
Kasich secured his first victory after more than 20 states have voted, according to CNN and Fox News. Kasich will now emerge as the Republican establishment’s top candidate but it’s an open question where he can next win against a dominant campaigner like Trump.
Trump won Florida, according to the Associated Press. The state awards its delegates on a winner-take-all basis, meaning Trump will collect all 99 at stake there.
Rubio addressed supporters shortly after the polls closed in Florida, saying America is "in the middle of a real political storm, a tsunami. People are angry and people are really frustrated."
Without mentioning Trump after congratulating him on his victory, Rubio delivered an extended rebuke to Trump’s message, saying a divisive campaign would compromise the nation’s future. "Do not give in to the fear," he said. "Do not give in to the frustration."
He pointed to his immigrant story and said that it’s "not God’s plan that I be president in 2016, or maybe ever.”
With 81 percent of precincts reporting, Trump has 45.6 percent, followed by Rubio at 27.1 percent and Texas Senator Ted Cruz at 17.0 percent. Kasich is at 6.8 percent.
The four other large states voting today, in what could prove to be the most consequential primary balloting yet, are Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri. Polls closed in all four states, but the races in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina are too close to call.
The outcomes in Florida and Ohio will help decide whether the billionaire is unstoppable in his quest to win the nomination, or can be denied a clear path to securing the delegates needed for victory.
Rubio once was viewed as one of the party’s rising stars, after winning his seat in Florida in 2010 as part of a Tea Party surge that year. Polling often showed him as a popular second-choice candidate for Republican primary voters, yet he struggled to record any wins in the early states. He finished fifth in New Hampshire’s primary.
After finishing second in South Carolina and Nevada, he went after Trump more directly, first on the debate stage and then in a series of campaign stops. He questioned Trump’s manhood, called the front-runner a “con artist” and mocked his “spray tan.” Rubio has since said he regretted that change in his tone.
For a brief time, after Rubio’s one-time mentor Jeb Bush dropped out, establishment Republicans viewed him as the best hope to stop the rise of Trump. Yet his mainstream positions, and relative youth as a one-term senator, were no match for the bombastic billionaire, who took to calling him "Little Marco" during debates.
It was in those debates that Rubio often shined, but he never could translate that into votes on the campaign trail. He won just three contests: Minnesota, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Kasich had said he’d drop out of the race if he didn’t win Ohio.
The five states will allocate more delegates than on any other day on the nomination calendar, except for Super Tuesday two weeks ago. The voting also could go a long way to determining whether Trump will cruise to the nomination, or whether the party is headed for a potentially chaotic national convention in Cleveland in July.
The voting is the first tangible measure of Trump’s standing since a melee broke out Friday night in Chicago after the real estate mogul abruptly canceled a rally because of protests inside and outside the arena. The incident further heightened unease among establishment Republicans desperately seeking a way to stop him.
State wins will be closely watched on both sides of the race, but just as important are the number of delegates the candidates will secure. Like Florida, Ohio has a greater importance there, too, because it also awards delegates on a winner-take-all basis.
Even if the number of candidates shrinks following Tuesday’s voting, Trump could be hard to stop, in part because of the sped-up nomination calendar that has allowed to him to already amass a substantial delegate lead.
Heading into Tuesday’s balloting, Trump had 460 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win, according to Associated Press estimates. Cruz had 370, followed by Rubio at 163 and Kasich at 63.
As he did on Super Tuesday, Trump has called a news conference for 9 p.m. at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
-- With assistance from James Nash and Sahil Kapur