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Apr 20, 2023, 5:30pm EDT
politics

Marco Rubio is taking his time on a 2024 endorsement

Senator Marco Rubio
REUTERS/Amanda Andrade Rhoades
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The News

As the Florida House delegation breaks hard for President Trump this week, Senator Marco Rubio is not rushing to make a decision of his own.

“I’ve made it clear to everybody that I’m not going to be getting involved in the presidential race for some time,” Rubio said.

Nor is he feeling pressure to get involved. He told Semafor that Ron DeSantis has not reached out to him on the topic.

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“I haven’t spoken to him in a number of months,” he said.

And while Rubio and Trump recently attended a UFC match together in Miami, he said they did not discuss endorsements there.

Asked about Trump’s recent string of support from Florida lawmakers, Rubio said that the former president “obviously has created relationships with these members of Congress” via his own prior endorsements and outreach. He likened his advantages to that of an incumbent running for re-election.

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As for Rubio’s own decision, he said that his “close friend” Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C. would be one possible option, should he choose to run. Scott, along with 2024 candidate Nikki Haley, endorsed Rubio’s presidential campaign in 2016 ahead of the South Carolina primary, which Trump went on to win.

After that, “I’ve got two prominent Florida residents,” he said, adding that he’s worked with DeSantis on behalf of the state and “obviously had very productive years when Trump was in the White House” as well.

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In conversations with Republicans involved in Florida politics, several mentioned Rubio’s tight relationship with Scott. But beyond that, it’s unclear where he might go.

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One source not aligned with any campaign speculated Rubio would be much more likely to back the former president over DeSantis if forced to choose between the two. But former Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who endorsed Trump the day he announced his 2024 campaign, said that the senator likely wasn’t paying much attention to the presidential race. “I don’t expect Rubio to endorse,” he said.

At the same time, it did not sound at all surprising that Rubio has not talked about the decision with DeSantis, whose lack of personal outreach to Florida politicians has been a sore subject this week.

“I’m not saying that Marco and DeSantis have an awkward relationship,” one former Rubio aide told Semafor. “I think they just don’t have a relationship.”

“Very few people know Ron DeSantis,” another source involved in Florida politics said when asked about their relationship.

A person familiar with DeSantis’ political team said that the governor and senator have “mutual respect” for each other.

On the surface, a Rubio/Trump alliance might seem odd given their acrimonious 2016 contest — Rubio called Trump a “con artist” who could not be trusted with nuclear weapons, while Trump derided him as “Liddle Marco.” But, like many opponents Trump vanquished, the two have warmed to each other since then.

“Rubio and Trump have a great relationship,” one source who works in Florida politics said.  “When he was president, they talked frequently. If there was something that needed to happen, and he needed the president’s ear, he would call him.”

The source added that their clashes on the presidential campaign trail were short-lived and mostly came during a stretch towards the end of the race. Rubio did not join his colleagues in condemning Trump after January 6th, despite warning in 2016 his rhetoric could lead to similar violence, and he graciously accepted his endorsement in his recent re-election.

The senator said repeatedly before Trump’s campaign announcement that he expected him to be the nominee if he ran, even as buzz built up around DeSantis, who led the GOP ticket to huge statewide gains in the midterms.

Rubio, who tends to side with the party’s hawks on foreign policy, also recently condemned DeSantis’ comments that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute.” That could potentially be an issue with Trump as well, who has gone significantly further in criticizing U.S. aid and praised Vladimir Putin’s “savvy” during the war.

This week the senator posted a video message — without mentioning DeSantis — complaining that not enough was being done to fix a gas crisis in South Florida after a storm. The post came as Trump allies, including Donald Trump, Jr. are going after DeSantis for leaving the state during the episode.

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Notable

  • DeSantis is not known for having a close relationship with the state’s other Republican senator, Rick Scott, Politico’s Gary Fineout wrote last month. In recent weeks, DeSantis has pursued legislation on abortion, immigration, and press liability that Scott opposes — and, in some cases, would reverse policies he enacted when he was governor.

—David Weigel and Kadia Goba contributed to this story

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