Gov. Jeb Bush’s exit from the GOP presidential race last night, following another poor primary showing, opens the door for further consolidation around one of the remaining “establishment” candidates — Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich.
Already, Sen. Rubio is set to benefit in a potentially massive way, with word that 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney is about to endorse him.
Via Huffington Post:
In a major development in the Republican presidential race, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney will endorse Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for president, The Huffington Post has learned from two Republican sources.
Details of Romney’s endorsement were still being worked out as of Sunday morning. The sources said that the former Massachusetts governor had been eager to provide his backing to Rubio for days but had hesitated, due to his respect for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who suspended his campaign on Saturday night following his dismal fourth-place showing in the South Carolina primary.
Romney spent the day in Utah on Saturday and could potentially be in position to bestow his blessing upon Rubio before Tuesday’s Nevada Republican caucuses–a contest that Romney won easily in both 2008 and 2012.
Romney’s backing will provide Rubio with the highest-profile endorsement of the 2016 race and is the clearest signal yet that the party’s establishment is ready to coalesce around the Florida senator as its last best chance to defeat GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
Romney has long held Rubio in high regard. The first-term senator made the vice-presidential short list for Romney‘s 2012 run and — along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — spent the night at Romney’s New Hampshire vacation home over Fourth of July weekend last year.
It’s unclear, however, if an endorsement from the likes of Romney will help or hurt in this election cycle where anti-establishement sentiment reigns. Some are already calling Romney’s endorsement of Rubio the “mark of a RINO.”
And given the last two presidential elections, where Republicans nominated “moderate” candidates — some would say RINO, while supporters would call them “electable” or “safe” — one has to question the wisdom of pursuing the same path this time. You know what they say about the definition of insanity…
UPDATE: Rubio is denying reports of an imminent Romney endorsement. Of course, that could be just toeing the party line, as it were. No doubt we shall know soon enough.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]