Trump picks up 3 states as Rubio exits the race

Posted at 6:52 PM, Mar 15, 2016

Businessman Donald Trump was hoping to give the knockout blow to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to put him well on his way toward the GOP nomination.

He is halfway there.

In the two winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio, Trump was looking to top established home state candidates. He knocked Rubio out of the race, but Kasich was given new life. 

In non winner-take-all states of Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina, Trump was declared the apparent winner. 

In Florida, Trump had projected a big win over Rubio for the state's 99 delegates. Rubio was hoping that the state would resurrect his dying campaign. Rubio announced following Florida's results that he has dropped out of the race. 

"While we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side," Rubio told supporters. 

In Ohio, Kasich won his home state, as he saved his campaign by winning the state's 66 delegates. 

"I want you to know the campaign goes on, and it is my intention to make you proud," said Kasich at his first victory speech. 

Kasich vowed to win the GOP nomination, even if it means doing so in a brokered convention. Given the math, that is likely Kasich's only route to the party's nomination. 

Trump will roughly be halfway to the GOP's nomination in delegates. 

Also holding races on Tuesday are Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. A total of 358 delegates are at stake on Do-or-Die Tuesday. Trump has claimed Illinois and North Carolina. Trump holds a slim lead in Missouri. 

"We had a fantastic evening, never expected this happen," Trump said. "To win the states we won, and with the margins. To win by that kind of a number is incredible. I have to say it, No. 1 I want to congratulate Marco on running a tough campaign. He has a great future."

The wins have Trump well on his way to a several hundred delegate lead. Trump ends Tuesday with at least 621 pledged delegates, with 1,237 needed to win. Cruz, who had his most disappointing night of the campaign, finished with 396 delegates. Rubio, who left the race, still is ahead of Kasich in the delegate count with 168 delegates compared to 138 for Kasich. 

Given his standing in the race, Trump took a conciliatory tone at his victory speech Tuesday. 

"We have to bring our party together," Trump said. "We have something happening together, we are making the republican party the biggest story in the world. Millions of people came in to vote."

Meanwhile, Cruz was hoping to pull off a win in Missouri. Instead, his campaign faces uncertainly as his math to 1,237 became more difficult, despite having a huge advantage on Kasich.

"Starting tomorrow, every Republican have  a clear choice," Cruz said. "Only two campaigns have a chance at the possibility of winning the nomination: Our campaign and Donald Trump."

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.