COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Sen. Ted Cruz said he considers his finish in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary a second-place tie with Sen. Marco Rubio, though final counts have since placed him less than 1,100 votes behind Rubio in third place.
Cruz told supporters he believes he is the only candidate who can defeat Trump, the first-place finisher in the primary.
Cruz began his remarks with a moment of silence for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last Saturday at age 79. Cruz came to his watch party in Columbia from the nation's capital where he attended Scalia's funeral.
Cruz pledged he would only select justices for the Supreme Court who would protect the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.
"This election will be a referendum on the Supreme Court," Cruz said. "And I'll tell you this: I can't wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whatever other Socialist they nominate."
Cruz told his supporters that the results in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina say three things.
"First, that conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign," he said. "If you are a conservative, this is where you belong because only one strong conservative is in a position to win this race. Second, we are the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump. That's why Donald relentlessly attacks us and ignores all the other candidates."
He congratulated Trump on his victory in the primary, but challenged voters who believe the country needs a strong challenge against the Democrats to join the Cruz team.
"And the third lesson of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is that only one candidate remaining has a consistent conservative record."
He said his campaign has not and will not respond "in kind" to personal attacks, saying the reason other candidates resort to insults is that they cannot defend their records.
Cruz said he is the only candidate who has led the fights against amnesty and Obamacare and the fights to defend life, marriage, religious liberty and the Second Amendment.
He also pledged to pass a simple flat tax and abolish the Internal Revenue Service; rebuild the military, stand unequivocally with the nation of Israel and utterly destroy ISIS.