Rubio edges Cruz for second in SC
© Greg Nash

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE has squeezed past Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE for second place in the South Carolina Republican primary.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Rubio finished with 22.5 percent of the vote, topping Cruz's 22.3 percent. Both candidates finished well behind winner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE, who had 32.5 percent.

The two freshman senators have been angling for position behind Trump, hoping to emerge as the consensus alternative to the GOP front-runner.

Cruz won the Iowa caucuses and finished ahead of Rubio in New Hampshire.

But Rubio will get new life after finishing ahead of Cruz in South Carolina. Cruz was once considered to have the inside track on the state due to its strong contingent of evangelical voters.

Rubio will get a further boost with Jeb Bush having bowed out of the race. Rubio and John Kasich are the last two mainstream conservatives standing. After a strong second place showing in New Hampshire, Kasich is headed for a fifth place finish in South Carolina.

The third-place finish is a disappointing showing for Cruz. The Texas senator's organization and evangelical support made him a sleeper pick to challenge Trump atop the polls on election day, but instead he was surpassed by a late-surging Rubio.

Rubio came on strong in the end, with his high profile supporters in the state — Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottWhy President Trump’s 'both sides' argument has merit GOP senator: 'There is no realistic comparison' between antifa and white supremacists Trump on white supremacists: ‘Pretty bad dudes on the other side also' MORE and Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyGowdy: Sarah Sanders doesn't get say whether Comey broke the law Trump condemns Rice's unmasking: 'What she did was wrong' Sessions, Coats push for permanent renewal of controversial surveillance law MORE — hitting the trail for him.

Both Rubio and Cruz are playing catch-up to Trump, who will take a strong majority — and potentially all — of South Carolina’s 50 delegates.

This story was updated on Feb. 21 at 7:21 a.m.