Rubio Edges Kasich to Win Republican Vote in Washington, D.C.by
Republicans in nation's capital select convention delegates
Win a boost for Florida senator ahead of home-state primary
Florida Senator Marco Rubio narrowly defeated a resurgent John Kasich to win voting in the District of Columbia, a race that wound up being far closer than the blowout victory insiders had anticipated just two weeks ago.
D.C. was a critical test for Rubio, as party leaders have questioned his viability and eyed other options, including Ohio governor Kasich, in a bid to blunt the momentum of billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump.
"I just didn’t know which one would win," Patrick Mara, the executive director of the D.C. Republicans, said of Rubio and Kasich following the vote. The Associated Press projected Rubio would be supported by 10 delegates in D.C., with Kasich picking up nine.
D.C is Rubio’s third victory, having previously won in Minnesota and Puerto Rico, and could give him momentum ahead of the winner-take-all vote in his home state March 15. Rubio has staked his campaign on Florida, and guaranteed supporters he’ll win there. Kasich, whose home state of Ohio also votes March 15, is in search of his first victory.
Elsewhere today, Ted Cruz won nine of 12 available delegates in Wyoming caucuses, though with 14 delegates to be awarded in April’s state party convention, the AP didn’t declare a winner.
Once Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential race in February, the party’s establishment wing turned to Rubio as the best, and possibly last, hope to stop Trump, who has drawn scorn from many party officials and influential Republicans.
At that point, being picked in a vote of the actual Washington establishment seemed almost a sure thing.
Rubio handily won suburban Washington areas when Virginia held its Republican primary on Super Tuesday on March 1. He finished a strong second behind Trump statewide, 35 percent to 32 percent, one of his best showings so far.
Yet weeks of disappointing results, including winning just one state on March 1 and polling no better than third in four states on March 8, put the establishment mantle Rubio had worked hard to win in serious doubt.
Ron Phillips, former executive director of the D.C. Republican Party who’s known Rubio since he was a state senator, said ahead of the vote it would be a tougher race for the Floridian after two difficult weeks since Super Tuesday contests.
“If this election would have been held the Saturday after Iowa, it would’ve been a different picture than the Saturday after Michigan.”
The demographics of Washington were seen as favorable, with an electorate that mixes Capitol Hill staffers, lobbyists, former administration officials and party insiders. Rubio won nearly 50 percent of the vote across the Potomac River in nearby Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, on March 1, and about 40 percent in suburban Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
"D.C.’s changed a lot in last decade," Rubio spokesman Alex Conant wrote in a post to his Twitter account. "It’s a minority-majority city that’s embracing the future. And today voted for it."