NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 8:57 PM
The bombastic billionaire was declared the winner of the Sunshine State’s GOP primary as soon as polls closed.
Donald Trump won a blowout victory in Florida Tuesday, scooping up 99 delegates in the state’s winner-take-all primary to cement his path to the Republican nomination and knocking competitor Marco Rubio from the race.
The bombastic billionaire was declared the winner of the Sunshine State’s GOP primary as soon as polls closed. With more than 80% of the state’s precincts reporting, Trump had 46% of the vote, compared with 27% for Rubio and 17% for Ted Cruz.
ELECTION 2016: LIVE RESULTS FROM THE MARCH 15TH PRIMARIES
Moments after the race was called for Trump, Rubio, who had campaigned and spent heavily in his home state, delivered a concession speech in which he announced he would quit the 2016 race.
“After tonight, it’s clear that while we are on the right side this year, we will not be on the winning side,” he said at a Miami campaign event that would turn out to be his last as a presidential candidate. “While this may not have been the year for a hopeful or optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic about America,” he added.
With the win in Florida, which allocates its 99 delegates on a winner-take-all basis, Trump expanded his commanding delegate total to 586. To secure the GOP nomination, the magnate needs to win 1,237 delegates.
Marco Rubio had campaigned and spent heavily in his home state, but had been utterly unable to slow the outspoken mogul’s momentum.
Trump’s path to the sought-after nomination, however, isn’t yet certain.
Kasich’s win in his home state of Ohio keeps his struggling campaign going. He had vowed to stay in the race until the July convention if he won the Buckeye State.
With the victory, the conservative governor collects all of his state’s 66 delegates, and, with Rubio’s bowing out, emerges as the likely consensus establishment candidate in the race.
With less than 10% of the state’s precincts reporting, Kasich had 43% of the vote, compared with 34% for Trump.
“Victory. Join our team as we march on,” he tweeted.
In an interview with CNN he heralded his status as an “underdog” and drew distinctions between himself and Trump.
“We need to bring this country together, we cannot divide this country anymore,” he said. “People are finally starting to hear my message.”
“People said we were the underdog in this campaign … and that was just the way we wanted it,” Kasich added.
The races in North Carolina, where 72 were at stake, in Illinois, where 69 were up for grabs and Missouri, where 52 were up for grabs, were all too close to call.
John Kasich, who took his home state of Ohio, has vowed to stay in the race until the July convention.
In North Carolina, Trump led Cruz 40% to 35%, with only 13% for Kasich, with 10% of the state’s precincts counted.
In Missouri, meanwhile, Trump led Cruz 34% to 27%, with just 18% for Rubio, with less than 1% of the precincts counted.
And in Illinois, Trump led Kasich 43% to 21% with Cruz getting 21%, with just 5% of the state’s precincts reporting.
Before Tuesday’s results began pouring in, three influential Republicans — perhaps sensing the inevitability of a Trump-led ticket — called on fellow conservatives to join them in a closed-door meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., to discuss how they could best stop the surging businessman.
The organizers — Bill Wichterman, who was former President George W. Bush’s liaison to the conservative movement; Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman; and Erick Erickson, the founder of conservative site RedState.com — will reportedly talk about the viability of a third-party conservative candidate in the general election.