Marco RubioMarco RubioRepublicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy Top Dem: GOP is terrified of Trump McConnell on Trump: 'I'm not a fan of the daily tweets' MORE declared Saturday night that the Republican presidential contest is now a "three-person race."
Rubio is battling with Ted CruzTed CruzTrump to interview four candidates for national security adviser Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at CPAC Reports: Petraeus off the list, Trump down to three candidates to replace Flynn MORE to finish second in the South Carolina primary, with votes still being counted late Saturday night.
"After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination," Rubio told a cheering, screaming crowd.
Rubio also gave his best wishes to his former mentor in Florida politics, Jeb Bush, who quit the GOP race after finishing in single digits in South Carolina.
"I pray for [Bush] and his family tonight as they move forward in other endeavors in their life,” he said.
"Jeb Bush has many things to be proud of," Rubio added. "He is an extraordinary husband, he is an extraordinary father, he was the greatest governor in the history of Florida."
Rubio, who is now well-positioned to capture many of Bush's supporters and major donors, congratulated his former rival for running a campaign based on ideas.
This was a far cry from complaints that have long emanated from the Rubio camp about the Bush team — and especially his super-PAC Right to Rise — spending millions in a failed attempt to nuke Rubio out of the race.
The Florida senator spoke in South Carolina as if he had achieved victory, despite likely losing by more than 10 percentage points to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpChelsea Clinton attends Muslim solidarity rally in NYC Pentagon chief: 'I don’t have any issues with the press' Kasich: The media is 'an important part of democracy' MORE.
Rubio was flanked at the celebration by three of the most popular politicians in South Carolina — Gov. Nikki Haley, Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyCongress asserts itself GOP rep says media is 'blurring' fact and opinion Oversight panel demands answers on Pentagon waste report MORE and Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottOvernight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers Puzder withdraws nomination for Labor secretary Ryan tries to save tax plan MORE.
Rubio said the four of them represented the new generation of conservatism.
"Now the children of the Reagan revolution are ready to assume the mantle of leadership," Rubio said.