After years of hype, followed by months of disappointment, the Marco Rubio bubble has finally burst. The junior senator from Florida, once considered a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, suspended his campaign on Tuesday after getting crushed in his home state's primary by Donald Trump. To many, Rubio’s exit from the race is a shocking development — but it shouldn’t be, because it was easily predictable long ago. The biggest question is why Marco Rubio dropped out now, as opposed to several months ago.
Let’s do a quick review of the numbers. At no point during the last six months has Rubio led the Republican field in a poll. At no point in over a year has he come in first place in a Florida poll, and by the time the state voted, he was trailing Trump by an average of 18 points. Prior to dropping out of the race, Rubio had won only a single state — Minnesota — and was in third place in terms of delegate count.
In other words, we should not be surprised that Rubio flamed out, because there was never any evidence to suggest otherwise. What’s most surprising isn’t that he dropped out; it's that he took so long to do so. After all, Rubio didn’t do much better than his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, and Bush suspended his campaign almost a month ago. What took Rubio so long?
The most obvious explanation is that Tuesday was the Florida primary, and Rubio didn’t want to leave the race before his home state voted. The more complicated question is whether, on Tuesday morning, Rubio actually thought he had a chance to win, or if he knew he was toast and was simply staying in to avoid looking like a quitter.
On the one hand, maybe he thought he would win. About a month before the primary — when the signs of his demise were already clear — Rubio advisor Todd Harris declared with confidence-bordering-on-cockiness that they would win Florida. This suggests that Team Rubio genuinely believed he would do it.
On the other hand, these people aren’t idiots, and Rubio’s advisors can read the polls as well as I can. It’s entirely possible that Rubio knew he would fall flat in the Sunshine State, yet stayed in out of respect for his constituents who supported his campaign. That kind of goodwill can come in handy if, say, you want to run for the governorship in a few years. Whatever the reason, the Rubio campaign has been dead for months. Now it’s just official.