Marco Rubio the latest victim of Donald Trump-led 'political tsunami'

By Eric DuVall  |  March 15, 2016 at 11:34 PM
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MIAMI, March 15 (UPI) -- After bounding into the race with the hope of inspiring a new generation of Republican voters, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign for president is over following a humbling home-state defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

Rubio outlasted several older, more experienced politicians, including Florida's former governor, Jeb Bush. The freshman senator who came to office six years ago as a rising star in conservative politics will now almost certainly end this year unemployed. Rubio ignored what would have been a safer bet for his political career, to run for a second term in the Senate. Instead, Rubio dove head-first into a wild and crowded Republican field with the hope of capturing the party's nomination.

Instead of turning to a 44-year-old senator with an inspirational personal story growing up the child of immigrants, many Republicans have soured on Washington and flocked to Trump, whose angry, demonstrative rhetoric has energized much of the party's base.

Rubio once appeared on the cover of Time magazine under the headline "The Republican Savior" -- demonstrating just how far he fell in this campaign. He won one state, Minnesota, and largely symbolic victories in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The Rubio campaign had its first real stumble prior to the New Hampshire primary. Things were beginning to look up for Rubio in the Granite State when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took to a debate stage and viciously tore into Rubio for repeatedly delivering the same canned answers about President Barack Obama. Inexplicably, when Christie mocked Rubio for being too robotic, Rubio responded with an almost identical rehearsed talking point again.

The slip-up led many to question Rubio's authenticity. And while Christie ultimately failed to improve his own standing, the damage to Rubio was done.

After that, Rubio switched into attack mode headed into Super Tuesday. With Trump dominating media headlines by insulting his opponents frequently with immature remarks about their appearance, Rubio made the calculation it was best to try to beat Trump at his own game.

Rubio called Trump a "con artist" and questioned if the casino developer had business ties to the mafia. Then there were the "small hands" -- one of the more outlandish exchanges between two major party presidential candidates in American political history.

At a rally in Dallas, Rubio called out Trump for having "small hands," saying: "You know what they say about men with small hands? You can't trust them."

At a debate a few days later, the taunt was brought up and offered Trump a chance to brag about something that would have made any other candidate -- not to mention any number of voters -- blush.

"He hit my hands," Trump said. "I've never heard of this. He referred to my hands [meaning], if they're small something else has to be small. I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee it."

After the attacks failed to improve Rubio's position in the race he backed away from the insults and admitted he was not comfortable delivering the kind of deeply personal barbs.

Once he came out the loser in all but one Super Tuesday state, Rubio was forced to defend his home turf and polls there predicted Tuesday's outcome. Rubio trailed Trump badly. Ultimately, he lost the state in a landslide.

In his concession speech, Rubio seemed to arrive at the conclusion many did about his candidacy some time ago. It was not equipped to survive the "political tsunami" of Donald Trump in a GOP primary and the visceral anger many of his supporters feel about the direction of the country.

Rubio's conclusion, albeit too late: "We should have seen this coming."

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