February 01, 2014, 12:00 pm
GOP insiders back Rubio in 2016
By Alexander Bolton
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) political stock is rated a buy by major Republican fundraisers in Washington, who are bullish on Rubio’s future as a 2016 presidential candidate.
A group of Republican fundraising heavyweights and wise men in Washington’s business community are solidly behind Rubio, and see him not only as someone who could win the White House, but someone they can work with.
The fundraisers include Bill Paxon, a former New York lawmaker who is now a senior adviser at Akin Gump; Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Wholesalers Association; and Wayne Berman, a big-time donor with a knack for picking winning candidates in presidential primaries.
All three are a party of the business wing of the Republican Party that has clashed with the Tea Party. Their support for Rubio suggests they seem him as a possible ally going forward.
Political strategists think Rubio’s chances of winning the GOP nomination in 2016 are looking better because of the bridge scandal embroiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) decision to forego a White House bid to aim for the gavel of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
“Marco Rubio is very much in the top tier of potential Republican candidates. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t looked at any data and doesn’t understand the dynamics of the Republican primary,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who counts Rubio as one of his clients. “Look at who votes. It’s very difficult to make the case that Chris Christie has a better chance winning the primary than Rubio.”
A WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday showed Rubio was tied for third place with Ryan among likely GOP candidates in a hypothetical 2016 New Hampshire primary matchup.
Christie suffered a further blow Friday when David Wildstein, a friend from high school he appointed to the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, claimed through his lawyer that the governor knew about traffic lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that may have been an act of political retribution on a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection.
Christie’s fall could create an opening for Rubio, who saw his stock with conservatives fall last year after he helped move an immigration reform bill through the Senate. Rubio has trailed Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) in straw polls of grassroots conservatives, which could make a play for the establishment wing of the GOP more enticing.
But first, Rubio would face the difficult choice of whether to opt for a presidential run when it could cost him his Senate seat.
Florida law does not allow Rubio to run simultaneously for the Senate and the White House in 2016, when his seat in the Senate is up.
When Rubio met with his K Street kitchen cabinet earlier this month for dinner at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he focused the conversation on his policy work, emphasizing his plans to deliver a major speech on higher education reform in the next two weeks, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
There were few signs of a run for the White House. Rubio’s office declined to comment about the possibility of a future White House bid.
Rubio has given conflicting signals about how seriously he’s weighing a presidential bid. He’s a devoted dad who spends a lot of time with his four young children.
His Senate Republican colleagues would prefer he focus on keeping his seat in 2016, when the Democrats are expected to target it along with GOP seats in Pennsylvania and Ohio.