Bush backers flock to Rubio

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Lawmakers are flocking to support Marco RubioMarco RubioWhat happens when the GOP base abandons the party platform? Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Trump encourages Rubio to reclaim Senate seat 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 TrumpCarson rooting for Trump, Sanders debate Developer rejects Trump’s Keystone pipeline proposal Trump take victory lap over rivals' remarks MORE, Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump take victory lap over rivals' remarks What happens when the GOP base abandons the party platform? Fiorina returns to attack Clinton's 'lust for power' 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 HellerLake Mead hits record low water level Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump Press: Forget about GOP unity in 2016 MORE (Nev.) and Rep. Mark AmodeiMark AmodeiBush backers flock to Rubio Rubio rolls out endorsements on eve of Nevada caucus Nevada congressman backs Rubio 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.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate GOP senator reacts to Garland meeting before it happens Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise MORE (R-Utah) also endorsed Rubio after earlier backing Bush, and noted that he had a "rough time" not picking the Florida senator initially. 
 
"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.
  

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