In the fourth quarter of 1991 and of 2011, Democratic and Republican officials broke toward candidates who would ultimately become their party’s nominee: Bill Clinton and Mitt Romney.
Each was imperfect, and each faced protracted resistance from dissenting factions in his party. But by late fall, the choice was clear for many party leaders. In 1991, Mario Cuomo decided not to run; in 2011, Rick Perry proved to be a disaster. And in both election cycles, no one else seemed to have the wide appeal necessary to unify the party or win the general election.
It’s still too early to say whether the Republican primary has reached a similar moment, but when analysts look back on the 2016 election, they may conclude that the G.O.P. reached a similar inflection point this week. Last week’s debate might have been a clarifying moment for party officials and donors, moving many toward deciding in favor of Marco Rubio and ultimately sending him on a path to the nomination.
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for president on Friday, giving the Florida Republican his fourth Congressional endorsement in as many days.
It’s the latest sign that establishment Republicans are gravitating towards Rubio.
Last week, Rubio won the backing of influential Republican billionaire Paul Singer over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
This week, Rubio surged into the lead for Senate endorsements, picking up support from Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Steve Daines (Mont.) and James Risch (Idaho). No one else has more than two senators supporting their candidacy.
Noem’s endorsement gives Rubio his 11th backer in the House, according to the FiveThirtyEight tracker.Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo report at Politico:
Jeb Bush’s decision to attack old friend and new rival Marco Rubio is backfiring, pushing important supporters to criticize the campaign’s tactics and driving one of Florida’s top fundraisers to officially quit and signal a shift in allegiance to the senator.
“I think the world of Jeb Bush. He was a great governor of Florida and is a really good person, but the campaign has hijacked his message,” said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee lobbyist who contributed more than $25,000 of his own money and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Bush’s campaign and the super PAC supporting him.
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“The campaign has become negative, one that is about attacking and trying to bring down Marco Rubio. And that doesn’t sit well—not only with me, but with anyone who knows the two,” Ballard said. “Marco’s a friend of mine. I didn’t sign up for a campaign that was going to be negative and attack a bright star of the party’s future. It doesn’t make sense. I’m over it. And I’m done.”
On Saturday, Rubio released his 2005 and 2006 statements that showed he only spent $65,000 on party business. That’s far less than other Republican leaders who succeeded him in the Florida House. And it’s just about half of the $117,000 Rubio himself charged on his party credit card after he became Florida House speaker in 2007-08.
The Rubio campaign’s decision to release the 2005-06 credit-card statements marks a tactical turnabout from to his 2010 Senate race, when they refused to release any documents after Crist’s campaign had them delivered to a Miami Herald reporter.
Then, the campaign correctly calculated that it could afford to take its lumps over the $117,000 in charges, about $16,000 of which Rubio said he paid because they were personal expenses. In this election, Rubio’s team had the luxury of time and knowledge that he charged only $65,000 -- about $7,200 for eight different items that Rubio deemed personal and said he paid. As the campaign began analyzing his bills and bank statements, it waited a little longer to set a trap for critics to repeat speculative exaggerations about the size and scope of his 2005-06 credit card expenses.
“He is a disaster with his credit cards,” Trump said in a speech this week. “For years, I’ve been hearing his credit card are a disaster.” The Democratic National Committee followed up with a Medium post that asked “What is Marco Rubio hiding?” And the campaign of Rubio rival and longtime friend Jeb Bush recently gave a presentation to donors in which it called the senator “a risky bet” and accused him of, among other transgressions, “misuse of state party credit cards.”