Bush backers flock to Rubio
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Lawmakers are flocking to support Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting The Memo: Trump allies hope he can turn the page from Russian fiasco Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE's White House campaign after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the GOP race on Saturday.

A slew of Republicans in Congress who previously backed Bush are moving to support Rubio as he battles GOP rivals Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzRussia raises problems for GOP candidates Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate O'Rourke calls for Trump's impeachment over Putin summit MORE (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

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Rubio's campaign announced ahead of Tuesday's caucus in Nevada that Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh MORE (Nev.) and Rep. Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiRevitalize our defense industrial base with mine permitting reform To reduce China's leverage, rebuild America's minerals supply chain GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now MORE (Nev.) would be backing his campaign.

Florida Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Díaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gus Bilirakis and Jeff Miller, all former Bush backers as well, announced their support for Rubio on Monday afternoon.

 
"Marco is a super outstanding member of the Senate but he's had a great deal of experience—he was speaker of the House down there in Florida," he told reporters, adding that he's "honest, energetic and trustworthy." 

Rubio is hoping to shore up support among more of Bush’s supporters, who are also eyeing Kasich as a potential alternative to Trump, the clear front-runner in the GOP race.

“As much as I love John Kasich, you know, Rubio is probably a better candidate. And he’s young,” former GOP nominee Bob Dole told ABC News on Monday in announcing his support of Rubio.

"He wants to grow the party as opposed to [Ted] Cruz. I don’t know what he wants to grow," Dole added.

Rubio narrowly edged Cruz for second place in South Carolina, marking his comeback after a disappointing fifth place finish in New Hampshire earlier this month.

Rubio’s backers have characterized the Florida senator as a unifying force in the GOP race as lawmakers and donors scramble to encircle an alternative to Trump and Cruz.

“America needs a president who will take on the status quo, establishment and entrenched interests that are standing in the way of a better future for our people, and Marco will be that kind of president,” Miller said in a statement Monday shared with The Hill.

Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, praised Rubio’s work in the Florida legislature, saying, “Marco has stood with me in fighting for our veterans and holding the VA accountable for the unforgivable scandals and abuses we’ve seen in recent years.”

The growing number of endorsements for Rubio also helps gin up attention for the candidate as he spars for the spotlight with Cruz and Trump, but it's unclear how much they will affect the race in a year where candidates who have positioned themselves as political outsiders have held an edge.

Republicans acknowledge that Rubio and others face a difficult path to the nomination in the face of Trump, who remains a dominant force with wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said early Monday that while he sees a two-person race between Trump and Rubio, there's more than a "50 percent chance" that Trump will be the nominee.