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But Can He Win?

| February 23, 2016

marco rubio florida delegates

Marco Rubio cannot afford to lose Florida’s 99 delegates if he is to win the Republican presidential nomination. (Sarah Elliott)

Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s decision this weekend to suspend his presidential campaign appears to have brought an end to a family feud among Florida Republicans, with many of those who had endorsed Bush quickly swinging their support behind U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.


Rubio still faces major challenges in his bid to become the GOP’s presidential nominee in the November election. But having elected officials in his home state coalesce behind his candidacy could boost Rubio’s odds of grabbing Florida’s 99 delegates to the Republican National Convention this summer. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,236 delegates.

Bush dropped out the race Saturday, after a disappointing fourth-place showing in the South Carolina primary. By Monday, a steady stream of Republicans who had backed Bush when he seemed like the inevitable nominee were lining up behind the only full-time Floridian left in the race.

In South Florida, three current Republican members of Congress and a former GOP congressman who had all backed Bush announced jointly Monday that they had switched to Rubio.

“From our days in the Florida Legislature, I’ve known Marco Rubio to be a principled man committed to public service,” U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “This commitment and his vision for the future of this great nation make him the strongest candidate for the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Jeff Miller of Northwest Florida also moved to back the state’s junior senator, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

It was a trend that was expected to continue.

“Most Floridians, at least in the political world, supported Governor Bush and now, I suppose, will endorse Marco Rubio,” said J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich, a lobbyist and longtime Bush adviser.

Stipanovich said he had already cast his ballot for Bush through early voting before the South Carolina results came in, but would likely have voted for Rubio if he had waited until after Bush’s announcement.

Bush’s exit within the first month of voting in the GOP primaries was a surprise. In addition to dozens of endorsements inside and outside of Florida, the son of one president and brother of another had raised $100 million before officially entering the race.

But the decision by Rubio, a former speaker of the state House and a sort of protege of Bush, to challenge the former governor caused several members of the state GOP to feel conflicted about their votes.

“I worked closely with both of them and, like a lot of folks, had had some angst about shared loyalties and awareness of these two leaders,” state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said.

That feud came to a head this weekend.

“However we feel about it, it’s been resolved in South Carolina,” Baxley said.

State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, also acknowledged the tension.

“It was heartbreaking for me to watch Marco and Jeb go at it and split the vote,” he said. “Now that we have one Floridian, one candidate … I think Marco Rubio is the guy for the job, and I think he’ll be the next president.”

Others still weren’t ready to jump. The Rubio campaign called state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, on Sunday to ask for his support. But Gaetz said Monday he hasn’t decided what to do.

“I am still in mourning. … I wasn’t just for Jeb Bush. I have been a Jeb Bush acolyte since before he was governor. His defeat was like a death in the family,” said Gaetz, a former Senate president.

Helping to rally state Republican leaders behind Rubio is the fear that real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and touts his plan to build a border wall, could win the nomination. Trump narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses before winning primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Many Republicans, especially among elected officials, fear that Trump could be a disastrous nominee in the general election.

“The stop-Trump train is really what’s going down the track right now,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

Democrats were quick to try to play down the advantages Rubio might get from the switched endorsements.

“If these politicians couldn’t help Jeb overcome the Trump machine, what makes them think they can help put Rubio — who lost every single delegate in South Carolina to Trump — over the top?” asked Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, in a statement.

Where the candidates stand in Florida isn’t entirely clear. GOP voters in other states have shown they are willing this year to buck the establishment. And few if any polls of Florida have been released in the last month.

“I think it’s still a state that’s up for grabs,” MacManus said.

And the man who would represent the biggest potential Florida endorsement for Rubio is still recovering from his loss. Stipanovich said he hasn’t spoken to Bush since the governor dropped out, but barring a surprising endorsement for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, there were likely only two alternatives.

“I think the choice is probably between endorsing Marco and not doing anything right now,” Stipanovich said.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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13 Responses for “But Can He Win?”

  1. Outsider says:

    I’ve been a life long Republican, but I’m not voting for Rubio. Everyone says “Throw them all out,” but they keep voting for the same people. Not his time around fellas; it’s a real revolution!

  2. r&r says:

    When Rubio in one of speachs to reduce people on intitements included people on social security. I as most of us long time hard working people have contributed to our fund with our emploryer matching it was enough for me to not even consider him for president..

  3. Sherry says:

    Although I’ll certainly be supporting Hillary Clinton. . . at least Rubio is not as dangerous as Trump. Rubio seems more sane, but how could he possibly be a good President when he can’t even bother to show up to do his job as Senator. I don’t see one good candidate in the entire Republican field.

    As a Democrat, I’m delighted that the Republican party is destroying itself from within. . . the horrific Tea Party is the reason for their demise. But, as a US Citizen who believes that we need at least two strong, reasonable political parties to maintain our leadership of the world. . . I am greatly concerned by the huge divide between our citizens and political parties. I love being proud of our country. . . right now, the Republican candidates for President are a huge embarrassment.

  4. Dave Sullivan says:

    The Republican ticket will be Trump/Rubio in that order. Anyway that is the most probable outcome of this very unusual Primary process. Based on latest
    Flagler voting stats that Republican ticket will easily win big in this County. Nothing I can do as to what the rest of the USA will do.

  5. Knightwatch says:

    What concerns me most about today’s Republicans, whether they’re for Rubio, Cruz, Trump, or whoever, is that they seem now to openly condone, even encourage, racism, bigotry, religious exclusion and the wholesale disdain of science, economics and history. They seem to be driven purely by a herd instinct to strike back against what they perceive as an assault on their beliefs and values driven by globalism, multiculturalism, gay rights, women’s empowerment and a host of other fast-moving cultural changes they don’t understand and won’t accept. I do know that, whether they win the presidency or not, the tide of change cannot be stopped and will ultimately engulf them.

  6. gmath55 says:

    Hillary Clinton is a huge embarrassment!

  7. Barry Hartmann says:

    Marco is my choice for POTUS. He is the only one that can beat the Hillary and her lies.

  8. confidential says:

    The 3 left in the GOP candidacy, reassure that will be Clinton or Bernie our next POTUS.

  9. Percy's Mother says:

    Why on earth would you even consider voting for Hillary Clinton? The Middle East went up in flames under her watch as Secretary of State. Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are now unstable thanks to her. She egged on the downfall of Libya, which is now a hotbed for terrorists. The woman has nothing to offer . . . and I am a woman voter . . . now she’s playing the race card, the gender card, this dirty card and that dirty card . . . anything to get elected.

    If you’re so sold on her please let me know specifically what the woman has accomplished in the last 10 years.

  10. Sherry says:

    This from US News:

    Although her major initiative, the Clinton health care plan failed, it certainly set the groundwork for the health care law we have today, the Affordable Care Act. And she played a leading role in advocating the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides state support for children whose parents cannot provide them with health coverage. She promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses. She also played a leading role in creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act. She encouraged older women to seek a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer (which is covered by Medicare) and successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the NIH. She worked to investigate illnesses that were reportedly affecting Veterans of the Gulf War; now commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome. And she created an Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. She is also the first first lady to hold a post graduate degree, and she traveled to more countries than any other first lady had at that time.

    As a U.S. senator, she was the first first lady to be elected to this office. She was instrumental in securing $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment. She subsequently took a leading role in investigating the health issues that 9/11 first responders were facing.

    After visiting soldiers in Iraq, Clinton noted that the insurgency had failed to disrupt the democratic elections held earlier, and that parts of the country were functioning well. Noting that war deployments were draining regular and reserve forces, she co-introduced legislation to increase the size of the regular Army by 80,000 soldiers to ease the strain and supported retaining and improving health benefits for veterans. She also she introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act.

    That was just in her first term. She was easily re-elected and accomplished much in her second term as well. And who can forget her run for the presidency, receiving more than 17 million votes during the nomination process?

    As our secretary of state, Clinton visited 112 countries, helping to repair a badly damaged U.S. reputation. She advocated an expanded role in global economic issues for the State Department and cited the need for an increased U.S. diplomatic presence, especially in Iraq, where the Defense Department had conducted diplomatic missions. Clinton unveiled the Global Hunger and Food Security program, prevailed over Vice President Biden to send an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, saved the signing of a Turkish-Armenian accord, and assisted the president with major decisions as to the U.S. position with regard to the revolution in Egypt and the decision to use military force in Libya.

    Hillary doesn’t need the merits of her husband; nor does she need to be attacked for standing by her man after his affair.

  11. Sherry says:

    OK. . . I looked for the actual “accomplishments” of the top three Republican Presidential contenders and could NOT find ANY at all. . . even on their own political web sites.

    Cruz’s claim to fame is OBSTRUCTING by doing things like shutting down the government to fight making health care accessible to ALL.

    Trump made billions by declaring bankruptcy, screwing over his creditors, putting many people out of work and using his MOB connections! He has never really done anything for anyone, unless it lined his pockets.

    In Rubio’s biography there is nothing accomplished except his education and position in the Senate. The closest he came to actually passing legislation is when he worked for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. . . and NOW he is even AGAINST his own efforts! Even before he declared his candidacy, he had one of the worst voting records in the entire Senate. Since he can’t be bothered to “show up” to do his job as Senator, why should anyone trust him to be a good President?

  12. Common Sense says:

    Being from Miami I have known about Rubio for a long time, He is owned by a Miami business cartel. He will do what they tell him to do. He is nothing more than a puppet. He doesn’t have an original thought in his head.
    I guess Republicans are not put off by the thought of his convicted, drug dealing brother in law visiting him in the White House.

  13. I/M/O says:

    Jeb Bush left the Governor’s Masion in 2007.

    Marco Rubio left for the Senate in 2008.

    Neither warned Flagler County homeowners of the financial catastrophe and foreclosure crisis that was coming in 2008.

    Both of them rode off into the “Sunset” along with their billionaire donors who took their billions with them through bankruptcy proceedings LEAVING THE REST OF US TO DEAL WITH THE MISERY OF THE 2008 FINANCIAL CRISIS AND FORECLOSURE CRISIS.

    We all sat here and watched thousands of our neighbors lose their home.

    Don’t tell me that Jeb bush and his protege Maro Rubio didn’t know what was going on because i will show you the video of President Geroge W. Bush warnings to Congress in both his first term and at the beginning of his second term that Freddie MAC and Fannie Mae were totally out of control and homeowners were headed toward disaster.

    But neither Jeb or then State Republican Majority Leader Rubio said nothing.

    Remember that on March 15th.

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