Senator Marco Rubio took the stage in Des Moines Iowa today after support for his campaign turned out to be better than expected in the state.
Rubio still got third place, with Cruz winning big as his campaign expected, but few could predict that Rubio would compete with Trump for second place.
With 99 percent of the vote in, Cruz earned 28 percent, Donald Trump earned 24 percent, and Marco Rubio earned 23 percent, according to Fox News.
But when Rubio and his family took the stage, the mood might have been too victorious for third place.
“So this is the moment they said would never happen,” he said. “For months, for months they told us we had no chance. For months they told us, because we offer too much optimism in a time of anger.”
Rubio congratulated Ted Cruz for his victory in Iowa, calling him his “friend” in spite of the onslaught of attacks from both sides. He also congratulated Gov. Mike Huckabee, who suspended his presidential campaign in a note on Twitter.
The passionate candidate brought up his faith, thanking “my Lord and savior Jesus Christ…” and the “all powerful and Almighty God.”
The Florida Senator spent time recounting his general election message, insisting to voters that he would be the best bet for beating Hillary Clinton and bringing in a new American century.
Rubio might have seemed a bit too giddy for his third place finish, but it is an important step for his campaign as he performed far better than the other establishment candidates.
Of those, Jeb Bush is leading with three percent, followed by John Kasich and Chris Christie. Other more conservative governors — like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal — didn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses. Fourth place finisher Ben Carson is showing 9 percent, while his freshman colleague Sen. Rand Paul has 4.5 percent.
As the important New Hampshire primary arrives for the establishment, expect many to turn their endorsements — and their wallets — in Rubio’s direction. It’s likely that Governor Mitt Romney will consider endorsing Rubio now that he has separated himself from the pack.
But Cruz and Trump still locked up the majority of Republican primary support in Iowa, and Trump is still leading big in New Hampshire and South Carolina.