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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A very bad night for Marco Rubio and his 'incredible shrinking campaign'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio talks to reporters Monday before speaking to supporters at the Tampa Convention Center.

[OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio talks to reporters Monday before speaking to supporters at the Tampa Convention Center.

8

March

This is how bad things were for Marco Rubio Tuesday night: As the first results came in from Mississippi, the Florida Republican was trailing Ben Carson.

Rubio surpassed the former presidential candidate, but it didn't change the brutal results: Rubio was swamped by Donald Trump in Mississippi and in Michigan.

Delegate haul: Zero.

"THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CAMPAIGN," blared an all-caps tweet from Matt Drudge.

More bad news came after midnight. Rubio was running a distant third in Idaho behind winner Ted Cruz and Trump. Rubio also came in third in the Hawaii caucuses, netting zero delegates.

Rubio, who has won only two nominating contests and is already facing growing pressure to withdraw, said it all comes down to his home state. "I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party," he said in Ponte Vedra Beach.

But results like tonight only sow more doubt in the mind of voters and give Trump -- the winner of both big Tuesday events -- more inevitability.

Even if Rubio wins Florida's 99 delegates, odds are he can't catch Trump, or Cruz. John Kasich even looks stronger than Rubio, at the moment.

The instant analysis is that Rubio's bitter standup comedy routine did him in. Certainly it blew up his wholesome image (remember, Trump's penis reference came courtesy of Rubio) and made the 44-year-old seem less presidential. But Rubio's problems are deeper -- his desire to be something for all Republicans and his lack of early organization in key states. His reliance on Florida comes after years of tending to his national ambition.

Trump celebrated in Jupiter Tuesday night, bizarrely surrounded by his signature steaks, water and wine. He said Rubio had a "tough night," but added, "he's going to have to make his own decision" whether to continue.

Several polls released Wednesday showed Trump with a sizable lead in Florida.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 11:54am]

    

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