Fresh off their Super Tuesday wins, Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz jointly turned up the pressure on Marco Rubio to drop out -- though the Florida senator insists he remains a contender and is "optimistic" about turning the race around once his home state votes.
Trump won seven states in Tuesday’s contests, bringing his delegate count to 316. Cruz, who won three states, now has 226 delegates. Rubio, with one state win and some second- and third-place finishes, brings his tally to 106.
For Rubio, he's eyeing the March 15 primary in his home state of Florida as the game-changer.
But at least until then, Trump and Cruz are working to sideline him.
At his rally in Texas, Cruz urged voters to unite behind his campaign, warning that Trump is on a glide path to the nomination until that happens.
"So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump's path to the nomination remains more likely and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives, and for the nation," he said. "And, after tonight, we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat, and that will beat Donald Trump."
He strongly suggested to reporters that Rubio should reconsider his presence in the race.
Trump, who has openly mocked Rubio for everything from excessive sweating to drinking water on camera, vowed to beat the senator in his home state.
With 10 furled American flags and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie standing behind him, Trump poked fun at Rubio, referring to him as “the little senator” and “a lightweight.”
"It was a very tough night for Marco Rubio," Trump said.
Trump earlier called on Rubio to drop out, while stopping just short of repeating the call at his press conference. But he said, "You've got to be able to win something."
Shortly afterward, Rubio did notch his first victory in Minnesota. But he stresses that what matters is the delegates, and he's still adding to his tally.
Rubio, who has repeatedly called Trump a “con artist” and slammed Cruz for not performing better on Super Tuesday, told Fox News he’s not going anywhere.
“Sixty-five percent of the people who voted yesterday across Super Tuesday did not vote for Donald Trump,” Rubio said. “He underperformed in virtually every state of the map.”
Rubio also had sharp words for Cruz.
“Let’s not forget that last night was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s big night. It was the night where he was going to sweep. The states were tailor made for the kind of campaign he was running. We beat him in Georgia. We beat him in half the states on the map.”
Rubio said the delegate counts will level out in upcoming winner-take-all primaries. Rubio said he expects to win all of Florida’s 99 delegates up for grabs in the March 15 primary.
Across 11 states, 595 Republican delegates were up for grabs Tuesday – nearly half the number needed to clinch the nomination.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who expressed low expectations for Super Tuesday, remains in the GOP race in hopes of making it to the Ohio contest in two weeks, though his presence continues to frustrate efforts by Rubio and Cruz to consolidate support.