In reversal, Rubio may run again

In reversal, Rubio may run again
© Haiyun Jiang

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Second Trump-Kim summit planned for next month | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking Afghanistan trip plans | Pentagon warns of climate threat to bases | Trump faces pressure to reconsider Syria exit Pressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday said he is reconsidering his decision not to run for reelection.

Senate Republican leaders have been pleading for him to run, believing that with Rubio in the race, they have a better chance of keeping his seat and their majority.

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Rubio signaled his plans might change after a weekend conversation with Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, a close friend of Rubio’s who is running to replace him.

López-Cantera told Politico that he would bow out if Rubio entered and that he had urged Rubio to get into the race before the June 24 filing deadline.

Rubio suggested the Orlando nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead Sunday morning could alter his plans. The conversation with López-Cantera took place while the two were at the scene of the Orlando massacre.

“Obviously, I take very seriously everything that’s going on — not just Orlando, but in our country,” Rubio told reporters in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

“I enjoy my service here a lot. So I’ll go home later this week, and I’ll have some time with my family, and then if there’s been a change in our status, I’ll be sure to let everyone know,” he said.

Senate Republican leaders are increasingly confident that Rubio will jump into the race.

Rep. David Jolly, another GOP candidate, said he would join López-Cantera in bowing out of the race if Rubio runs.

One Senate GOP leadership source said he would be “very surprised” if Rubio decides not to run for reelection. A second Senate GOP leadership source who’s been in contact with Rubio said “there’s growing confidence and optimism” he will launch another Senate bid.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with him in recent weeks, and he’s moving more and more in that direction,” the second source said. “But you don’t know until he pulls the trigger.

“He feels a sense of obligation to keep the seat,” the source added.

A third Senate Republican offered a more neutral view, putting Rubio’s odds of jumping in the race at about even.

“He’s 50-50 and has not made his decision,” said a Senate leadership aide with ties to Rubio. “He’s still working through this. He and his wife are praying about it.”

The first source said an announcement would come in the next week. This source suggested Rubio would not want to step on the national mourning period following the Orlando shooting.

Rubio pivoted Monday during a radio interview when he told conservative host Hugh Hewitt that the weekend attack by a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had caused him to re-evaluate his desire to serve in government.

“When it visits your home state, and it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about, you know, your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country,” he told Hewitt.

Senate Republican strategists say if Rubio runs, he would greatly increase the GOP’s chances of keeping the Florida Senate seat, which, as the field now stands, is viewed as the third most likely to flip to Democrats.

“If Rubio runs, we win. If he doesn’t run, we lose,” said a Senate Republican strategist.

Republican worries about retaining their Senate majority are growing by the day, given problems in presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE’s campaign. A Bloomberg poll this week found Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonConservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Trump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier MORE by 12 points.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback MORE (R-Ky.) declined to answer questions about Trump on Tuesday, while his lieutenant, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE (R-Texas), said he’d seek to avoid questions about Trump until after Election Day.

GOP strategists worry the Republican candidates now in the Senate race will have trouble distinguishing themselves from Trump because many voters don’t know them.

That’s less of a problem for Rubio, who ran against Trump in the presidential primary.

“Rubio is a national figure, and he offers something that he doesn’t get from any of the other candidates running on either side. That’s a giant platform from which to advocate for Florida,” said the GOP strategist.

Rubio would be no sure thing, however, against likely Democratic nominee Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Democrats will hit Rubio for his less than enthusiastic remarks about serving in the plodding Senate and his long absence while running for the GOP presidential nomination.

Rubio told The Washington Post last year that he was “frustrated” with the chamber’s pace.

Rubio’s campaign committee reported $3.3 million on hand in its last notice to the Federal Election Committee, significantly more than the amounts reported by Jolly and López-Cantera, who had $563,000 and $389,000, respectively. 

Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is also running for the Senate Republican nomination in Florida, reported $3.2 million in the bank at the end of March, and Carlos Beruff, a real estate developer, had $60,000.

Jolly said Wednesday that he would be shocked if Rubio doesn’t run for Senate given all of the signals of his intentions.

“I’m convinced he is,” he said. “It’s been far too coordinated. His pivot’s been far too clear.”

Jolly is mulling three possibilities for himself: staying in the Senate race, running for reelection to his House seat or not running at all. He will hold a press conference Friday morning to announce his future plans.

 Jolly said it’s telling that while Rubio has helped López-Cantera raise money, he has not formally endorsed him.

“His failure to endorse his best friend means something,” he said. “He’s never endorsed him because it’s actually harder to withdraw an endorsement. It’s a lot easier to say I was out there supporting my friend, but I’ve reconsidered.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a Cuban-American from Miami who runs in some of the same circles as Rubio, predicted he would make a bid to keep his seat.

“My money is on him running,” he told The Hill this week.

Scott Wong contributed.