The Republican presidential race narrowed to three candidates; businessman Donald Trump, US Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich after Marco Rubio suspended his campaign on 15 March. Cruz, a conservative US senator from Texas, reached out to Rubio's supporters during a rally in Houston. Cruz said Rubio ran a "a strong, optimistic, positive campaign".
"His story, the son of a bartender, the son of a maid, who fled Cuba seeking freedom, is powerful, it's inspirational. Marco's story, his passion, inspires me. To those who supported Marco, who worked so hard, we welcome you with open arms," said Cruz. Rubio suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination after losing his home state of Florida to Trump.
Cruz has now focused on closing the gap on front-runner Trump. "Starting tomorrow morning, every Republican has a clear choice. Only two campaigns have a plausible path to the nomination - ours and Donald Trump's. Nobody else has any mathematical possibility whatsoever. Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again," Cruz said. "Do you want a candidate who shares your values, or a candidate who has spent decades opposing your values?"
Cruz was introduced on stage by former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina who called him "a constitutional conservative who represents the best of our party and the best of our movement". By capturing Florida, Trump won all 99 of the state's delegates, giving him a huge lift in his drive to securing the nomination. He also won Illinois and North Carolina, while no winner had yet emerged in the Republican races in Missouri.