Rubio edges Cruz for second in SC
© Greg Nash

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE has squeezed past Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week 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 TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA 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 ScottAfter Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward GOP senator: FBI failure in Florida shooting 'a separate issue' from Russia probe Sunday shows preview: Russian charges, Florida shooting dominate coverage MORE and Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand GOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban 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.