Marco Rubio says he is reevaluating his decision not to seek reelection to the Senate.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, Rubio confirmed a Politico report that Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a personal friend whose candidacy he had cited as an impediment to entering the race, had spoken with him over the weekend and urged him to run.
“Obviously I take very seriously everything that’s going on, not just [in] Orlando, but in our country. I’ve enjoyed my service here a lot, so I’ll go home later this week, and I’ll have some time with my family and then if there’s been a change in our status I’ll be sure to let everyone know,” he said.
Five days ago, Republicans reading the tea leaves saw only a very slim chance that Marco Rubio would run for reelection. Now, many feel almost certain he will.
“I would be stunned if he didn’t run now,” says one Republican strategist, who as recently as last week believed a Rubio campaign was unlikely.
“You can just see a reenergized Marco Rubio,” says Colorado senator Cory Gardner, who had a similar change of heart about running for the Senate in 2014. Gardner said it started after Rubio returned from the presidential campaign, but “it’s been building and building. And then all of a sudden you see doors opening to the fact that he is possibly entertaining this, and [the optimism has] grown even more.”
According to one GOP lawmaker, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has told representative Tom Massie, a fellow Kentuckian, that he bets Rubio will run.
“I think he’s open-minded to it,” says South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham. “But time will tell.”
Senator Roger Wicker, of Mississippi, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told National Journal that he thinks it will happen, as well. And Republicans say the sentiments being expressed in private are more optimistic than they had been in weeks past, when getting Rubio in the race was seen as a much longer shot.
For the past few weeks, Republican operatives and Senate colleagues have been engaged in a sort of Hail Mary attempt to get Rubio to rethink his decision. McConnell was vocal about his desire to get Rubio to run, as were a number of Florida politicos. But Rubio resisted their efforts, and as recently as Friday, his office issued a statement reaffirming that he would not run.
For quite a few weeks, McConnell’s former campaign manager, Josh Holmes, who is among the loudest voices urging Rubio to run, says he “felt like a one-man band being optimistic when everybody said he wasn’t going to run.”
But after Rubio opened the door to a run Monday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, saying the Orlando shooting had made him rethink “how I can best serve,” there has been a marked shift in Republican sentiment.
The filing deadline is June 24. Rubio suggested his decision would come after the weekend. Gardner says that he hasn’t talked to Rubio about running since the shooting in Orlando, saying there was some effort to give Rubio “space.”
“And,” he adds, “where appropriate, a helpful nudge.”