Sen. Marco Rubio celebrated a big comeback in South Carolina after exiting New Hampshire with a bad debate performance, and a fifth-place finish in the primary.
“Many thought it was over,” Rubio said to his cheering supporters, citing South Carolina as a place of “new beginnings and fresh starts” for his campaign.
Rubio took the stage after his former political mentor Jeb Bush announced that he would suspend his campaign with less than 8 percent of the total vote in the state. The Florida Senator acknowledged Bush’s exit signaling “affection and admiration” for Jeb Bush and his family, calling him the best governor that Florida ever had.
After paying tribute to the Bush family’s legacy, Rubio’s speech pivoted to highlighting a new generation of conservatives who would restore America to greatness.
“Ronald Reagan made us believe that it was morning in America again — and it was,” he said. “Well now the children of the ‘Reagan Revolution’ are ready to assume the mantle of leadership.”
Rubio took the stage with popular South Carolina political figures Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Tim Scott as well as Gov. Nikki Haley, pointing to their political careers as part of the future of the conservative movement from many different backgrounds.
Rubio repeated the term “conservative” on several occasions, vowing to fight for the underprivileged Americans fighting to get ahead.
“We will fight for you, because we come from where you are now, because we live the way you live now, and we know that limited government and free enterprise and a strong national defense is a better way forward for you, for me, for us, and for the United States of America.”
Rubio took the stage as elections results showed him effectively tied for second place with Sen. Ted Cruz — with a narrow margin that increased as the last few votes came in. When 99 percent of the voters were in, Rubio led Cruz by about a thousand votes.
He closed his speech by citing God’s will.
“I know that God’s hand is on everything and so whatever God’s will is, in this election, is what will ultimately happen to us and to our country,” he said. “But if is God’s will, that I should serve as the 45th president — if it is God’s will, that we should win this election, then history will say that on this night in South Carolina, we took the first step forward in the beginning of a new American century.”