Florida Sen. Marco Rubio plans to push forward with his efforts to play a more active role in national politics regardless of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's moves toward a 2016 presidential run, The Hill reported Friday.
Earlier this year, Republican strategists predicted that Rubio would not run if Bush decided to enter the race. They reasoned that if Bush —
who served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 —
were to jump in, Rubio's fundraising base would gravitate to him.
But Rubio backers say that, despite Bush's statement that he will "actively explore" a presidential run, the freshman senator has no intention of leaving the race.
At a dinner in Washington last month, Rubio assured a group of major Republican fundraisers that he would not base his decision on whether to run for president on the intentions of any other candidate.
Rubio backers say Bush's entry into the presidential race will hurt candidates thought to be linked to the Republican establishment —
a category they say includes 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
"I think Christie and Walker are more impacted by Jeb," said Republican fundraiser and strategist Matt Keelen. "I think a lot of the people that were coalescing around Christie were Bush people and had ties to the Bush infrastructure. That's probably not going to be there for him."
Some prominent Rubio backers, including Wayne Berman, senior adviser for global government affairs with the Blackstone Group, and former New York Rep. Bill Paxon, a senior adviser at Akin Gump, a legal and lobbying firm, are said to be sticking with the senator.
"Donors are definitely torn," said Bobbie Kilberg,
a top Republican donor who worked in the White House under President George H.W. Bush.
who is also close to Romney and Christie —
said Bush's "smart, strategic action" is "putting pressure on center-right donors, who did not expect it this early."
Most Bush loyalists "have held back from early support of other campaigns, waiting to see if Jeb would get in," said Kirk Blalock, a Republican lobbyist who worked in the White House under President George W. Bush. Many of them "will pick up an oar and start rowing."
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