Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Juan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? MORE (R-Fla.) is planning to take a more active role on the national political stage next month, undeterred by his former mentor Jeb Bush’s moves toward running for president.
Republican strategists predicted months ago that Rubio would not run for the White House if Bush waged a bid. They assumed Rubio’s fundraising base in Florida would migrate entirely to Bush, the state’s former governor.
Bush announced in mid-December that he would “actively explore” running for president. Now Rubio is gearing up for a busy January, when he will launch his new book, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.”
“I know for a fact that the news last week didn’t change any of our team’s plans. Sen. Rubio will have a very aggressive travel schedule next month,” said a senior Rubio advisor.
He said he would make a decision about the presidency irrespective of the intentions of any other candidate, said one GOP fundraiser who attended.
The 43-year-old conservative star doubled down on his pledge during television interviews last weekend.
“When you reach a point where you are thinking about running for president, as I am, what you have to make your decision is on is not on who is running. It's on whether you think that's the right place to achieve your agenda and serve your country,” Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He said he would run for the White House only if he decides “that’s the right place for me to serve at this moment in my life.”
Rubio says he has “tremendous respect” for Bush and acknowledges he will be a “very credible” and “strong” contender.
Rubio gave the fundraising heavyweights assembled at the W Hotel, dubbed “Team Rubio,” a preview of what will likely become his presidential campaign theme: Restoring Americans’ fading hopes for upward economic mobility.
A nationwide New York Times poll conducted from Dec. 4 to 7 found that only 64 percent of respondents said they still believed in the American Dream.
Rubio’s top financial backers say Bush’s likely entry into the 2016 GOP primary doesn’t hurt him as much as it does candidates more aligned with the party’s establishment, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
“I think Christie and Walker are more impacted by Jeb,” said Matt Keelen, a top Republican strategist and fundraiser. “I think a lot of people that were coalescing around Christie were Bush people and had ties to the Bush infrastructure. That’s probably not going to be there for him.
“Those two guys were the biggest beneficiaries of Jeb not running,” he said of Christie and Walker.
Vin Weber, a prominent Republican strategist who served as a top adviser to Romney’s 2012 bid, agreed that Jeb’s presumed entry into the race will not impact Rubio as much as some other candidates.
“If [Rubio] wants to run, he’ll be a competitive candidate too. The notion that there’s room for only one Florida candidate is pretty narrow,” he said.
“My own instinct and based on people I talked to is that Christie is more affected,” he added. “Gov. Bush getting into it early is going to take away a certain number of people who would have gravitated to Christie.”
But Rubio will also lose fundraising talent to Bush, his allies concede.
Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, says he has a longstanding commitment to Jeb and the Bush family. He was a leader of Rubio’s inside-the-Beltway fundraising team.
But the other leaders of Rubio’s D.C.-New York money machine, including former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), a senior advisor at Akin Gump, a lobbying and law firm, and Wayne Berman, a senior advisor for global government affairs at the Blackstone Group, are said to be sticking with Rubio.
Two other well-connected Rubio fundraisers with strong ties to the Bush family, Kirk Blalock, a partner at the Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock lobbying firm, and Charlie Black, the chairman of Prime Policy Group, are on the fence, according to members of Rubio’s finance team. The Wall Street Journal reported that Black has suggested he would support Jeb if he ran for president.
“Is it possible to raise an adequate amount of money with Jeb Bush in the race? I think most people say yes. Does it make it more difficult?... The answer to that is yes,” said a GOP fundraiser, who noted Bush’s donor base in Florida is different from Rubio’s.
The fundraiser said Rubio and Bush draw donors from different generations and different regions of the state.
On a national level, the source said, Rubio would draw donors and bundlers who supported Romney’s 2012 bid and Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 campaign, while Jeb would attract those who supported his brother’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns.