Rubio edges Cruz for second in SC
© Greg Nash

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRyan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Richard Gere welcomes lawmakers' words of support for Tibet Dem lawmaker gives McConnell's tax reform op-ed a failing grade MORE has squeezed past Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 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 TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE, who had 32.5 percent.

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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 ScottMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees GOP senator: Trump shouldn't pardon Flynn Trump should fill CFPB vacancy with Export-Import chief MORE and Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father Overnight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' Flynn told associate Russia sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ early in Trump presidency 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.