MIAMI, FLORIDA — High school senior Veronica Bondarenko voted for the first time on Tuesday, casting her ballot for her senator, Marco Rubio. A few hours later, after winning just over a quarter of the state’s Republican votes, Rubio announced he was dropping out of the 2016 race.
The new Florida voter was one of many was one of many to gasp aloud when Rubio told the few hundred supporters who had gathered to celebrate with him at Florida International University that it may not be God’s plan for him to be president this year, or ever.
“I was really surprised and got emotional,” she told ThinkProgress moments after Rubio exited the room. “It’s so sad that right after I cast my vote, he drops out. But I don’t have any regrets. He’ll do better in a different election. I still believe he has potential and I want him to run again, maybe after he gets more experience in the Senate or maybe as governor of Florida.”
With his wife and children beside him, his oldest daughter struggling to hold back tears, Rubio ended his concession speech Tuesday with a prayer, asking god to bless his supporters, the nation, the “conservative movement,” and “our eventual nominee. Earlier this week, Rubio said he will back the nominee, even if it’s the man he has accused of tearing the GOP apart: Donald Trump. With Trump winning all of Florida’s delegates Tuesday night, that outcome becomes much more likely.
But Bondarenko and many other Rubio supporters told ThinkProgress that they will refuse to vote for Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee.
“With Donald Trump in the lead I don’t really know what to do,” she said. “I just won’t vote, I guess. I wouldn’t vote for a Democrat but I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump either.”
Clutching a battered Marco Rubio sign and wiping tears from her eyes, Miami resident Elsa Tarbajal said she too can never bring herself to support Trump in a general election.
“I don’t understand what people see in him,” she said, her voice raw with emotion. “He’s a lunatic. He doesn’t have any substance. He doesn’t have any solutions to our problems, while Marco has everything. I’m really disappointed in Florida tonight.”
Tarbajal, a Cuban-American who has lived in Miami for 55 years, credited Trump’s victory in her state to “racists” and “a lot of ignorant people,” and lamented that “the future of our grandchildren is at risk” if Trump wins the Republican nomination. She said she will vote for an independent candidate if that happens. “I will not help this country go further in decline,” she said. “I hope the people of the United States really think about it.”