It’s the seemingly intractable problem of Florida politics these days, one that has eluded even the most savvy operators.
If Marco Rubio does jump back into the race for his U.S. Senate seat, how do you rearrange the chess pieces — at least the ones that matter — so everyone comes out a winner?
After weeks of saying he wouldn’t run for re-election, Rubio on Monday seemed to open the door to run again in 2016. When asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt if the shooting at an Orlando nightclub changed his decision, Rubio appeared to crack the door open to the possibility.
“I haven’t even given it a thought in that perspective other than to say that I’ve been deeply impacted by it, and I think when it visits your home state and impacts community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about … your service to our country and then where you can be most useful your country,” he said on the show. “We live in a very dramatic moment in our history.”
Rubio said he and his family were praying on the issue, and said they would be discussing how he could best serve. During the interview, Rubio also said a friend of his — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera — was running for the seat.
Subsequently, Lopez-Cantera has been under tremendous pressure to scoot aside for Rubio.
The deadline to qualify for the 2016 ballot is Friday, June 24th.
“It’s like when you have to tell your best friend that he should break up with an ugly girlfriend,” said one former elected official close to Lopez-Cantera who has helped raise money for the LG. “You have to do it gently. You don’t just tell him his girlfriend is horrible.”
Two other sources who have raised considerable money for both Rubio’s presidential bid and Lopez-Cantera’s U.S. Senate campaign and/or super PAC tell FloridaPolitics.com that were CLC to withdraw from the race in time for Rubio to qualify for re-election, there would be considerable support for Lopez-Cantera were he to run in 2018 for the statewide post of Chief Financial Officer.
With CLC taken care of, what about the other candidates who have been running under the premise Rubio would not seek re-election?
U.S. Rep. David Jolly has already said he would withdraw.It’s likely he would run for re-election to his U.S. House seat. He has already received encouragement from some Tampa Bay area Republicans, including Sen. Jack Latvala, to run for re-election. If he runs for re-election, Jolly would face Democrat Charlie Crist.
Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox are both on record saying they will stay in the race regardless of what Rubio does. In fact, as first reported by FloridaPolitics.com, Wilcox launched his first television ad Tuesday.
That leaves Ron DeSantis.
While some have speculated he would simply run again for his congressional seat, the rumor du jour is that if Rubio runs for re-election, he will drop out and run for Florida Attorney General in 2018.
As he should, DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold denies this.
“We’re not concerned with Washington insider chatter,” said Herold. “We’re focused on continuing to build the strongest campaign of any candidate in Florida.”
Herold didn’t say this, but DeSantis isn’t stupid. He’d move out of the way for Rubio. And while he’ll probably take a look at running again for CD 6, our sources say DeSantis is more interested in statewide office.
As for the actual chances of Rubio running, many Republicans assume it’s a foregone conclusion.
Oh sure, there will be some hemming and hawing about Rubio having to get the OK from his wife, but the real hesitation Rubio has is whether he can win in this election cycle with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.
One Republican lobbyist, who has raised well into the six-figures for Rubio, says the senator has expressed to him “trepidation” against re-entering the race and losing because Trump motivates Democratic voters to turn out in waves.
“That’s what Marco is really hesitant about,” said the lobbyist.