Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the battle for second place against Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential race on Super Tuesday, increasing the pressure on the Floridian to either turn his campaign around or drop out.
Cruz won his home state as well as Oklahoma and Alaska, big victories in his quest to catch front-runner Donald Trump and pull ahead of Rubio.
“Thank you Texas,” Cruz said at the start of a rally in Stafford, Texas. “God bless the great state of Oklahoma.”
Without pause, Cruz then tried to make his double victory a rallying cry for Republicans to come together so he can have a one-on-one battle with Trump.
“After tonight, we’ve seen this is the only campaign that can beat, has beaten and will beat Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “For those of you who have supported other candidates, we welcome you. United, it’s the only way.”
A loss in delegate-rich Texas would have been a major blow to the future of the Cruz campaign. He has now won four races, including the Iowa GOP Caucus last month.
Cruz was unofficially in second in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota and Tennessee shortly before midnight EST. Eleven states held a Republican primary or caucus Tuesday.
Rubio notched his first victory of the campaign with a win in the Minnesota caucus, and was narrowly ahead of Cruz for second in Georgia Wednesday morning, but his hopes for a breakout night were dashed when Trump narrowly won Virginia.
Rubio had invested significant time and resources toward a victory in the swing state, but proved unable to garner enough support outside the Old Dominion's wealthy Washington D.C. suburbs to overtake Trump.
Despite the disappointment, Rubio waved off any suggestion of dropping out.
“No one is taking home all of the delegates,” he told Fox News, arguing that Cruz was supposed to win five states. “We never said this was going to be the night that we surge. We’re going to be in this race for a long time.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich had an up-and-down night. He finished second to Trump in both Vermont and Massachusetts, but came in fifth in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Alaska. He has vowed to keep his campaign going until at least March 15, when his home state holds a primary he expects to win.
But the night belonged to Donald Trump who won seven of the 11 states contested Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, Trump had amassed 285 Republican National Convention delegates, well ahead of Cruz's 161 and Rubio's 87.
“I think (the GOP) is going to be more unified,” he said a press conference in Palm Beach, Fla. “I think we are going to win it now.”
With many precincts still out, all of the delegates have yet to be awarded. However, in Texas, Cruz has at least 57 to Trump's 20, with no other candidate reaching the required 20 percent vote threshold.
In Georgia, Trump had 36, Cruz had 14, and Rubio had 11. In Massachusetts, Trump had 22, while Kasich and Rubio each had eight. Virginia's results gave Trump 17 delgates, while Rubio had 16 and Cruz had eight.
In all, the GOP field was competing Tuesday for a total of 595 delegates. The other candidate in the GOP field is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who finshed no better than fourth in any race Tuesday.