Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio apologized to Trump for 'small hands' crack Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio MORE declared Saturday night that the Republican presidential contest is now a "three-person race."
Rubio is battling with Ted CruzTed CruzStephen Hawking: Trump a 'demagogue' Dems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker 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 TrumpTrump slams 'totally biased' judge in Trump U case Ex-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli: I didn’t endorse Trump Five things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary MORE.
Rubio was flanked at the celebration by three of the most popular politicians in South Carolina — Gov. Nikki Haley, Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyBenghazi panel interviews drone pilots after standoff with Pentagon Clinton’s email troubles deepen Benghazi report out within next month, chairman promises MORE and Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottGOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs 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.