Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) is all in for former Gov. Jeb Bush over Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Demings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio Bipartisan senators introduce bill to protect small businesses from cyberattacks MORE ahead of his party's 2016 presidential primary.

"I'm excited about a Jeb candidacy," Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board during a meeting Friday. 

“Marco doesn't bring that much more experience than Obama did, and we have to be honest about that.”

Jolly praised Bush as “uniquely” qualified, with significant experience both as a governor and in private business. And he said Bush could provide strong leadership on a contentious issue for Republicans: immigration.

Bush “is the right person to move the conversation to a responsible immigration reform platform,” Jolly said.


While Jolly doesn’t agree with Bush’s support of Common Core education standards, he says he has spoken with the former governor about making those standards optional.  

Now that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has declared that he will not run for president for a third time, Bush is widely considered the front-runner in the crowded pack of potential GOP nominees. He leads in many major polls of national Republican voters and is well-placed to tap into the vast network of donors and political consultants that helped position his family as an American political dynasty.

But Bush’s first battleground might be his home state, where Rubio, considered one of the party’s rising stars, is also weighing a bid. Rubio has said that he wouldn’t let Bush's entering the race dissuade him from running. He also told National Journal in January that his family is behind him and he’s “confident” that he’ll be able to raise enough money to be a strong competitor in 2016.  

While many consider him the underdog in the Sunshine State, Rubio has a strong following among younger conservatives and would represent a new direction for the party. 

Jolly added that while the party has shifted further to the right since Bush left office in 2007, GOP voters would come to believe they had plenty in common with his positions.

"I think the more people get to know Jeb Bush and revisit his record, they're going to realize he's a lot more conservative than what he's being branded."