JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Real-estate magnate Donald Trump won a crushing victory in the Florida Republican presidential primary Tuesday night, turning what was originally expected to be a race between two of the state's favorite sons into the death knell for the last Florida candidate standing.
With all of Florida's 4 million primary votes counted, Donald Trump received nearly 45.7 percent of the GOP vote to Rubio's 27 percent. Ted Cruz was in third place with 17 percent.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a nearly 2-1 margin all evening long.
Rubio was counting heavily on his home-state voters to keep his campaign alive in the race for the Republican nomination. Halfway through the vote counting, the only Florida county were Rubio as leading was Dade -- his home district and home to a large Cuban-American population.
CHECK: Florida Election Results
With Trump nearly 300,000 votes ahead of Marco Rubio by mid-evening, Florida's junior senator appeared before full of disappointed but enthusiastic supporters in Miami to announce his exit from the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
"It is not God's plan that I be president in 2016, or maybe even ever," Rubio said. "I ask the American people, do not give in to the fear. Do not give in to the frustration. We can disagree about public policy, we can disagree about it vibrantly -- passionately -- but we are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful."
Just six years ago, Rubio was a tea party favorite who crushed the GOP's "establishment" candidate to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. But the political tables turned on Rubio, who was lambasted as mainstream in a year when voters cried out for an outsider.
"I've battled my whole life against the so called elites who told me to wait my turn or wait in line, or it wasn't our chance or it wasn't our time. So I understand all these frustrations," Rubio said. "When i decided to run for president, I decided to run a campaign that really embraced these challenges, but also one that's optimistic for what lies ahead for our country."
In a move apparently aimed at boosting either former Gov. Jeb Bush or Rubio, the Republican Party of Florida decided to make its primary winner-take-all, giving whoever carried the state all 99 delegates. Losing his home-state delegates, Rubio had almost no path to the GOP nomination.
In victory remarks later Tuesday night at a Palm Beach estate owned by his business organization, Trump applauded Rubio.
"He's tough, he's smart, and he's got a great future," Trump said.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who doubles as a state representative, praised Rubio in a statement issued by the party.
"He contributed mindful, substance based arguments and articulated conservative ideals since the start of his presidential bid," Ingoglia said. "His optimistic message and commitment to American exceptionalism has helped keep conservative values in focus for 2016."
Many people News4Jax talked to outside the precidnts Tuesday were disturbed by the tone of the race.
"I think it has been one of the most difficult and divisive election cycles that we’ve encountered in my lifetime," St. Johns County voter John Lovelady said. "The polarization is what I struggle with, because I wonder what’s going to be able to pull (us) together as a nation and pull together as a group, to make America great again or accomplish any of those slogans."
Clinton crushes Sanders in Sunshine State
The Florida Democratic Party awards its 214 convention delegates proportionally, so Clinton picked up 140 delegates from the state.
"Hillary will aggressively define Donald trump, and that’s what Hillary is going to do," said Mike Langton, Democratic activist and former state representative. "And what Bernie needs to do is give up, because the mathematics after tonight, he can’t do it.”
Sanders was never expected to unseat the Democratic front-runner in Florida, but he did carry nine smaller counties in north Florida, including Baker and Union.
Within one hour of the polls closing in Duval County, votes from 191 of 199 precincts were counted, despite a record turnout for a presidential primary.
Duval County reported 46 percent of registered voters had cast ballots either early, by absentee, or on Tuesday. St. Johns County reported a 54 percent turnout, Clay at 45 percent and Nassau just shy of 50 percent.