Marco Rubio's Second-Place Win Doesn't Mean Much

by Cate Carrejo

Despite the high profile endorsement from popular Gov. Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio disappointed in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday. He managed to eke by rival Ted Cruz for a second place finish, but no one in the Republican race could catch Donald Trump on delegates. Rubio, along with the rest of his GOP compatriots, took home zero delegates at the end of the day in the Palmetto State, due to South Carolina's unusual system for awarding delegates.

The South Carolina Republican primary utilizes a winner-take-most system that awards delegates on a statewide and congressional district basis. In the statewide election, which Trump won handily with a 10 point margin, 29 delegates are given to the winner of the popular vote. The remaining 21 delegates are awarded to the winners of each of South Carolina's seven congressional districts — three delegates for each district. Trump also won each of those seven districts, and therefore took all the delegates up for grabs.

No Republican candidate has ever won all the delegates in the primary since South Carolina switched to the current system for the 2000 election. By all predictions, Rubio should have gotten a least a couple delegates as the first runner up, but the unprecedented domination from Team Trump kept Rubio and all the other contenders at a goose egg.

The consequences of Trump's decisive win could be troubling for anti-Trumpers. He's pulling way ahead in delegates, and most Super Tuesday polls show him in the lead. However, now that Jeb Bush is out of the race, his potential supporters, particularly those in the ever important state of Texas where his family still holds a great deal of political sway, could actually have a significant impact on primaries going forward. Cruz is tracking well in his home state, and its 155 delegates would be a huge help to Cruz's campaign.

Rubio proclaimed in his concession speech that the Republicans are now in "a three-person race and [he] will win the nomination," so he clearly has no intentions of giving up the game yet. Super Tuesday is coming up so quickly, and it can seriously make or break campaigns — in 2008, President Obama pulled ahead of presumed nominee Hillary Clinton to win Super Tuesday and, soon after, the nomination. Anything can happen, even after a sweeping victory like Trump's in South Carolina.