Marco Rubio has begun telling colleagues he will run for reelection to the Senate, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
Rubio, who said when he announced his presidential bid in April that he would not seek reelection, had a change of heart following an aggressive push led by National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Ward Baker, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his allies, and a bevy of Florida politicos. All expressed concern about losing the seat to Democrats in an election year likely to prove difficult for Republicans across the board, one in which they have grown increasingly worried about keeping their Senate majority.
The decision was an agonizing one for Rubio and required a lot of effort on the part of his fellow Republicans: Rubio has until recently been stubbornly insistent that he is not running, and during the campaign, he said repeatedly that he had decided to leave office because the partisan gridlock in Washington has made it impossible to accomplish anything. Now, he will have to eat his words.
“This is all a giant McConnell plot,” says a source familiar with the push to convince Rubio to run, which began in earnest about three weeks ago. “And they pulled it off. It’s impressive. They cleared the field.”
That’s not technically true. Rubio still faces a four-way GOP primary, though his friend, Florida lieutenant governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, said last week that he would exit the race if Rubio were to enter. Representative David Jolly dropped out last Friday, and another candidate, Representative Ron DeSantis, suggested that he would reconsider his options if Rubio jumped in. “If he makes a decision to run, that changes a lot about how I look at the race,” DeSantis told radio host Hugh Hewitt last week. Two other candidates — Carlos Beruff, a wealthy real-estate developer, and Todd Wilcox, a defense contractor — have said they will stay in the race. Beruff immediately released a statement blasting Rubio as “Washington’s candidate.”
Rubio will undoubtedly become the frontrunner in the race. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier today found Rubio leading the two top Democratic candidates for the seat — Representatives Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson — 47 percent to 40 percent and 48 percent to 40 percent, respectively.
Sources say Rubio will not rely on the same campaign team he has used in the past, led by Terry Sullivan, who recently founded a crisis communications firm along with former Rubio press secretary Alex Conant. Sullivan and Conant are likely instead to helm a super PAC that will assist Rubio’s Senate bid. Sources say Rubio has tapped somebody else to lead his campaign, though they decline to name the individual.
Rubio is expected to make an official announcement later today. It follows a drawn-out period of indecision during which the 45-year-old Florida senator took stock of the past and was forced eventually to make a fraught calculation about his political future: at the heart of it was whether he could best position himself for a presidential bid in 2020 or 2024 from inside the Senate or as a political outsider.
“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 told reporters last week.