Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lost primaries or caucuses in at least nine states on Tuesday, moving his record in the race for the Republican presidential nomination to 1-13.
That's a worse record through the first 14 contests than the worst teams in the NFL last year: The Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans at least managed to win three of their first 14 games.
The candidate of the Republican establishment is in big trouble.
Rubio -- whom the media proclaimed the "real" winner of three of the first four presidential primaries after he finished behind Donald Trump in all four -- lost a bunch more on Tuesday. Trump won primaries or caucuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia. Sen. Ted Cruz won Oklahoma and his home state of Texas. Either Trump or Ohio Gov. John Kasich will win Vermont.
Rubio did manage to claim a victory in Minnesota.
Despite this impressive burst of losing, some people remained eager to spin the news for Rubio -- and against Trump:
Rubio's win in Minnesota -- which the New York Times' number crunchers ranked as more likely to vote for him than any state save Colorado and Utah -- is apparently a Very Big Deal:
Actually, the story is that the candidate of the Republican establishment is still losing.
Rubio showed Tuesday that he can beat Trump -- in one or two of every 15 tries. But nearly one-third of states have voted, and Trump holds a commanding lead in the race for the nomination. Primary voters and caucus-goers don't elect presidential nominees directly -- they elect delegates, who pick the nominee at the party convention in November. Trump came into Tuesday with 82 of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. (Rubio had 16.) But nearly 600 delegates were up for grabs Tuesday, and Trump will win more of them than any other GOP candidate.
Especially damaging for Rubio was his performance in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. Those states require candidates to win at least 20 percent of the vote to win statewide delegates. Results aren't final, but Rubio is in danger of missing these thresholds. That could cost him scores of delegates -- delegates that would instead go to Cruz and Trump.
Cruz and Rubio have both previously suggested that the other should drop out of the race and clear the way for a head-to-head contest with Trump. But Cruz's success Tuesday means there's no reason for him to drop out before at least March 15, when Rubio's home state of Florida votes.
In January, Rubio's team said he'd finish third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire and first in South Carolina. They called it the "3-2-1" strategy. Rubio actually finished fifth in New Hampshire and second in South Carolina, where Trump won every single delegate. After Tuesday night, the 3-2-1 strategy has become something like a 3-5-2-2-3-2-3-2-3-3-3-1-3-2 strategy.
Rubio's campaign can't stop promising he'll win states he goes on to lose. Tuesday afternoon, Rubio sources told supporters that Rubio "could even win outright in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Minnesota," according to Bloomberg. Rubio lost three of those four states. On CNN, Jake Tapper asked him if he's in "denial" about the race.
Rubio could still become the Republican nominee. Even after Tuesday, less than 30 percent of Republican delegates will have been awarded. But he has a difficult path. And he can't become the nominee if Trump keeps winning significantly more delegates than he does.
So Rubio is still promising wins. He appeared on Fox Tuesday night to promise that his best states are yet to come. (The next states on the GOP calendar are Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana this Saturday and Idaho and Mississippi next Tuesday.)
Rubio has repeatedly promised to win Florida on March 15. But public polling of that state -- where early voting began Monday -- suggests Rubio trails Trump badly:
Rubio's campaign gathered supporters in Washington Tuesday afternoon -- presumably to warn them that he was going to lose a bunch Tuesday night and tell them everything is fine. But everything is not fine. Rubio is not on pace to win the Republican presidential nomination.
And sadly, he's not the Tennessee Titans, so he can't even count on the first pick in next year's draft.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that after Tuesday, less than 20 percent of Republican delegates will have been awarded. In fact, it is less than 30 percent.
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