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Marco Rubio unloads just as some polls are about to close

Marco Rubio is predicting a big night for himself and a disappointing Super Tuesday for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Salem, Va., Feb. 28, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Salem, Va., Feb. 28, 2016.

ANDOVER, Minn. — Marco Rubio is predicting a big night for himself and a disappointing one for his two main rivals, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, as Republican voters head to the polls in 11 states across the country for the Super Tuesday primaries.

"I certainly think we're going to do a lot better than we're expected to do tonight," he told reporters in Andover, Minn. before boarding his flight to Miami, where he'll watch the returns come in.

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Even as Rubio barnstormed 10 different primary states over the past five days, questions remain over whether he can win a state on Tuesday. He wouldn't predict a win anywhere, only naming Minnesota and Virginia as states where he'd do well.

But Rubio said he expects to get "a lot of delegates tonight — I mean, a lot of delegates, and that really is gonna position us strongly there to go into next Saturday and beyond."

In contrast, Rubio predicted Cruz would fall far short of expectations that he said Cruz himself had already set too high.

"This was supposed to be Ted Cruz's day. This was the day where he said he was going to bring an end to the campaign — Super Tuesday — he was going to sweep the South. I don't think that's going to happen — it's pretty clear now, and so I think he has big problems as he faces that," he said.

He also predicted a rougher-than-expected night for the GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump.

"You're gonna see very clearly after tonight that Donald Trump has no chance of ever getting the delegates he needs to be the nominee," Rubio said.

It's a bold prediction for a candidate that's trailing Trump by double digits in most Super Tuesday polling and has yet to notch a win in a primary. But if it comes to fruition, it will validate his strategy to focus on winning congressional districts and amassing delegates in an effort to both encourage other candidates to drop out and prevent Trump from gaining too much momentum.

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It would validate, too, his sudden shift to aggressively attacking Trump last week, which saw Rubio mock Trump on the debate stage and during nearly every one of his stump speeches since. The attacks took a personal turn for a few days, with Rubio making fun of Trump's tan, his hair and ultimately the size of his hands at a rally late Saturday night. He's since retired attacks on Trump's appearance but has continued to decry the frontrunner as an unelectable "con man" and pledged to do whatever it takes to prevent him from getting the nomination.

Rubio said Tuesday he decided to attack Trump — and attack him personally — because "every now and then a bully needs a taste of their own medicine."

"Sometimes when someone gets out of hand like he does, someone needs to be reminded that they too could be attacked and humiliated and mocked. Bullies need to be stood up to and I was proud and happy to do it," he said.

But Rubio added that it won't be a central focus of his campaign going forward — that he unleashed the array of attacks on Trump's appearance and temperament "just to prove the point that he's thin skinned and he likes to insult people but he doesn't like when someone hits him back."

"That's very typical of insecure people like this. They like to dish it out but they don't like to take it. And that's what I intended to reveal, but that's not my campaign, and that's not what we do everyday, and that's not what we're going to do. My campaign is going to remain on the issues," he said.

It's certain the two will again collide, however, on the path to the Florida primary, where Rubio has insisted he'll win but where Trump leads him by double digits in public polling.

He also committed to campaigning beyond Florida — "as long as it takes" — to stop trump.

"I'm going to campaign as long as it takes, beyond Florida, I'm going to campaign as long as is takes to make sure that our party does not fall under the control of a con artist," he said.

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