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Marco Rubio exits presidential race after losing Florida

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton win primaries in Florida and North Carolina

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugMIAMI (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has of Florida ended his presidential campaign after losing the Sunshine State to Donald Trump in the Republican primary.

Trump also carried North Carolina. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton also easily won both Florida and North Carolina.

The only Southerner now left in the race, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, failed to win any of the five March 15 contests. However, his losses to Trump were narrow in North Carolina and Illinois, and Missouri was a virtual tie, with Trump prevailing by less than 1,800 votes.

“After tonight, America now has a clear choice going forward,” Cruz told supporters in Houston. “Only two campaigns have a plausible path to the nomination, ours and Donald Trump’s. Nobody else has any mathematical possibility whatsoever.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

Rubio, who won only two primary contests in Minnesota and Puerto Rico, had been banking on a win in his home state. But Trump carried 46 percent to Rubio’s 27 percent, with Cruz at 17 percent and Ohio Governor John Kasich at 7 percent.

Speaking to supporters in Miami after the television networks called the race for Trump, Rubio said “it is clear that while we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side.”

“The fact that I’ve even come this far is evidence of how special America is,” he said.

A short time later, Cruz saluted Rubio’s campaign effort and made a direct pitch for his voters.

“To those who supported Marco, who worked so hard, we welcome you with open arms,” Cruz said.

In North Carolina, Trump took 40 percent to 37 percent for Cruz, 13 percent for Kasich and 8 percent for Rubio.

In the Democratic primary in Florida, Clinton rolled up 65 percent, to 33 percent for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The race in North Carolina was closer, with Clinton at 55 percent and Sanders at 41 percent.

With those wins, Clinton has now taken 13 of the 14 Southern states, with only West Virginia left. Trump has taken 11, losing only Texas and Oklahoma to Cruz.

Voters in West Virginia go to the polls May 10.

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