Marco Rubio Tuesday quit the race for the Republican presidential nomination after an embarrassing loss to Donald Trump in his home state of Florida and slammed the GOP establishment "that for far too long has looked down at conservatives, looked down at conservatives as simple-minded people and looked down at conservatives as simply bomb-throwers."
"While it is not God's plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever, and while today my campaign is suspended, the fact that I've even come this far is evidence of how special America truly is," the Florida senator told supporters in Miami.
Rubio, 44, who entered the race last April, announced his decision within minutes after news organizations projected Trump as the winner of the Sunshine State primary. He was flanked by his wife, Jeanette, and four children.
During the campaign, Rubio won the Minnesota caucuses, as well as primaries in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. He has otherwise placed either third or lower in all the other primary races.
"All the reason more why we must do all we can to ensure that this nation remains a special place," said Rubio, who was elected to the Senate in the tea party wave in 2010. "I ask the American people, do not give into the fear, do not give into the frustration.
"We can disagree about public policy, we can disagree about it vibrantly, passionately, but we are a hopeful people and we have every right to be hopeful," he said.
Rubio congratulated Trump on his victory — even quieted supporters who booed the front-runner — and told people who yelled that Trump should be president "Don't worry, you won't get beat up at our event."
"We live in a republic and our voters make these decisions — and we respect that very much, and it was a big win," he said of Trump's victory.
He thanked his workers and supporters — calling them "the hardest working people I've ever been associated with" — but acknowledged, "there's nothing more you could have done.
"America is in the middle of a real political storm," Rubio added. "A real tsunami. We should have seen this coming. People are angry and people are very frustrated."
He blamed the Republican establishment for ignoring the frustrations of American voters, which includes a poor economy, widespread unemployment and rampant illegal immigration.
"There's millions of people in this country that are tired of being looked down upon," Rubio said. "Tired of being told by these self-proclaimed elitists that they don't know what they're talking about and need to instead listen to the so-called smart people.
"I know all these issues firsthand. I've lived paycheck to paycheck. I grew up paycheck to paycheck. I know what it's like to have to figure out how to find the money to fix the air-conditioner that broke last night. I know my parents struggled. I know millions of people that are doing that. I know immigration in America is broken.
"I understand all of these frustrations," Rubio said.
He called for a new conservative movement that "believes in the principles of our Constitution, that protects our rights and limits the power of government.
"A conservative movement committed to the cause of free enterprise. The only economic model where everyone can climb without anyone falling. A conservative movement that believes in a strong national defense and a conservative movement that believes in the strong Judaeo-Christian values that are the formation of our nation."
Rubio ended by thanking God for the opportunity to seek the nomination and quoted King David from the Old Testament.
"May God strengthen our nation," Rubio said. "May God strengthen the conservative movement. May God strengthen the Republican Party. May God strengthen our eventual nominee."
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