How about a Florida presidential free-for-all?

In response to First Presidential Attack Ad of 2016 Cycle Jabs Jeb Bush:

It looks like the Jebbernaut is going to have a bumpy ride out of the garage.  Not only have we got that attack ad as an opening salvo in the PAC wars, but to the surprise of the conventional-wisdom dispensers, Marco Rubio doesn’t seem interested in clearing the decks for his old mentor.  According to an article at the Washington Examiner, Rubio stalwarts are comparing all that “make way for Jeb” talk to the way everyone told Rubio he couldn’t possibly beat Charlie Crist for Senate:

Rubio partisans concede that Bush could make a presidential bid difficult for the 43-year-old senator to pull off.

A Bush candidacy would eat into Rubio’s Florida fundraising base, and capture the backing of some of the big GOP donors outside the Sunshine State who might otherwise have contributed to, and raised money for, the senator. Rubio would have to make up the difference elsewhere to launch the kind of effective campaign his team has been preparing for, and many Republican insiders believe he would have a near-impossible time doing so.

But Rubio’s supporters believe the challenge is surmountable, in part because the senator has cultivated his own profile as a national leader during his first four years in Washington and built a solid political and fundraising network that extends beyond Florida. Rubio has developed a pretty reliable army of small donors who give online; and through his political action committee, Reclaim America, Rubio has assembled a well-oiled political operation that is essentially his presidential campaign-in-waiting.

“I think it’s a pretty solid network. He’s built some relationships here and nationally that I think he can count on,” said a GOP operative and Rubio backer who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “If they weren’t from the same state, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Rubio’s got a lively PAC that backed some winners in 2014, including Senator-elect Joni Ernst, who just happens to be (a) a rising Republican star and (b) from Iowa, where presidential races begin (and often end.)  Rubio already made his “I’m forming a committee to explore the possibility of running” announcement, and has collected some RSVPs for the event.

He’s also en fuego as news of Obama’s plans to normalize relations with Cuba break.  “It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this Administration has established,” the Senator fumed today.  “This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell more consumer products, the idea that’s going to lead to some democratic opening is absurd, but it’s par for the course with this administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in exchange for nothing.”

Gee, that’s a little harsh – after all, Obama did extract a promise from the communist Chinese to form a committee to explore the possibility of crippling their economy in the name of global warming in 2030-something.  Jeb Bush is voicing criticism, too – “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship,” he said today – but he hasn’t developed anything approaching Rubio’s brio on the subject yet.  Rubio will swing for the fences on this, in the process reminding everyone that he might have stumbled pretty badly on immigration, but he’s still one of the best orators the Republicans have.  

There are plenty of reasons for Rubio to hold off on conceding anything to Bush, not least the fact that nobody outside the media (which would love Republicans to run a base-alienating guy named “Bush” in 2016) and donor class has reacted to Jeb’s unexpectedly early debut with much enthusiasm.  Nobody in the GOP power structure cares what conservatives think, not yet, but Rubio has time to convince them that a candidate who can generate enthusiasm somewhere outside Sunday talk-show sets would be an asset.


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