Two days before the Nevada caucuses, Senator Dean Heller (R.,NV) has thrown his weight behind Marco Rubio for president.
Heller, previously a Jeb Bush supporter, announced his endorsement this morning on Twitter. The move comes mere hours after Bush’s exit from the race on Saturday evening.
Marco Rubio “is the next generation of conservative leadership, and I am proud to offer my full support,” Heller tweeted.
“Marco understands Nevada, he grew up here — I look forward to campaigning with him today,” he added.
Heller’s imprimatur could help Rubio thread the needle with crucial pockets of the Silver State electorate. Other than Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison, who chairs Rubio’s Nevada campaign, Heller is the state’s most prominent LDS member, making his stamp no small coup for Rubio: LDS voters gave Mitt Romney his landslide Nevada victories in 2008 and 2012, and Rubio’s team has courted them accordingly. Heller also has clout in Washoe County — the state’s key swing county — having represented it in Congress from 2007 to 2011.
Heller’s endorsement is the first major one since Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced his support of Ted Cruz in January. Cruz and Rubio have both engineered bombproof campaign organizations across the state, a necessary feat where chaos and dismal turnout rule the caucuses. Whether the current front-runner can upend them, however, remains to be seen: though Donald Trump has little ground game to speak of in Nevada, he dominates the latest CNN/ORC poll at 45%.