Bush backers flock to Rubio
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Lawmakers are flocking to support Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration 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 TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention 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 hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum MORE (Nev.) and Rep. Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiOvernight Finance: House passes .2T funding package for 2018 | FTC launches Equifax probe | Mnuchin defends honeymoon jet request | House scraps measure to boost credit union regulator oversight Trump’s EPA budget cuts hit strong opposition at House panel 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.