Politics & Policy

Conservatives Rally Behind a Rubio Successor

A bevy of conservative groups, from FreedomWorks to the Club for Growth, are set to rally behind a potential successor to Florida senator Marco Rubio, who launched his presidential bid on Monday and effectively vacated his Senate seat ahead of the 2016 election. 

Meet Florida representative Ron DeSantis, the 36-year-old Navy JAG with degrees from Yale, where he earned his undergraduate degree, and Harvard, where he went to law school. Currently the chairman of the Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on national security, he is, like Rubio, an outspoken advocate for a muscular, internationalist foreign policy. Since his election in 2012, he has often worked to undermine House speaker John Boehner. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative House members that in January split off from the Republican Study Committee in an attempt to exert more force on House leadership.

“Congressman DeSantis has been an unwavering supporter of limited government and pro-growth fiscal policies, as we expected him to be when the Club for Growth PAC supported his 2012 House candidacy,” says Club for Growth president David McIntosh. “He would be a strong candidate to replace a great U.S. senator. While the Club has not yet made an endorsement, we are excited to review the candidates and their records on fiscal-policy issues.” The Club is expected to endorse DeSantis in the coming days, and that, like all of the Club’s endorsements, will come with significant financial backing. 

Several tea-party groups, as well as the Senate Conservatives Fund, are also expected to issue endorsements. FreedomWorks was the first group to go up with its endorsement on Tuesday, calling DeSantis ”exactly the kind of courageous conservative we need in the U.S. Senate.” Though he doesn’t issue formal endorsements, radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt has called DeSantis “the next senator from Florida.” 

All of this, and DeSantis has yet to declare his candidacy, though he said in a statement on Tuesday that is considering a run. A primary is expected on the Republican side, though Jeff Atwater, Florida’s chief financial officer, who had been running atop the polls, said last week that he would not run.

On the Democratic side, representative Patrick Murphy who, like DeSantis, was elected in 2012, has also said he would seek the nomination. 

— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.

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