A battle is being waged within Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign about whether he should even remain in the Republican presidential race ahead of his home state primary on March 15, sources say.
Publicly, the campaign is maintaining they are still a contender in this race, touting a Sunday win in Puerto Rico's primary that delivered Rubio 23 delegates. But privately, the campaign is having a debate about whether he should remain in the mix -- even for his home state of Florida's primary.
"He doesn't want to get killed in his home state," one source familiar with the discussions said, noting "a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future."
There are two lines of thought within the campaign: getting out before Florida, and hanging in there.
On the one hand, some advisers are warning that if Rubio does poorly in his home state, it could not only hurt his presidential campaign but also his future politically, including a potential gubernatorial run in 2018 or chance to be on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate.
"Cruz won his home state. If Rubio can't win his, that's a problem," one prominent supporter said.
But others within the campaign are urging Rubio to stay in the race, predicting a better-than-expected finish in Florida.
You can watch the original report here on CNN's website.
The Rubio campaign was not amused.
Boy, did that really piss off Team Rubio.
Rubio communications director Alex Conant was quick to appear on CNN with Wolf Blitzer to completely refute that reporting, informing Blitzer it’s “utter nonsense” and the reporters involved did not contact the Rubio campaign before running that “absolutely false” story. He said, “CNN is doing a disservice to voters by doing that sort of reporting.”
When Blitzer continued to ask Conant about the report, Conant asked him to “stop reading that sort of fiction on air.” He demanded to know how the report made it to air without contacting the campaign first.
You can see the video on Mediaite.
I was really surprised that an unblinking Alex Conant got through the mauling of Wolf Blitzer without blaming Ted Cruz. Seriously.
As to the story itself, it would be shocking to me if there weren't senior folks on the Rubio campaign who can read newspapers and have come to the conclusion that Rubio can't win generally and he could get curb stomped in Florida. Future political ambitions aside, do you really want your last race to be a losing one in your home state? Who does that besides Walter Mondale?
It is also not surprising that the campaign wants to tamp down this sort of talk because the slightest hint that Rubio is leaving the race is going to result in tsunami of FAIL on March 15. And the famous poll of 72 early voting ballots that the Rubio camp was crowing about today is not going to prevent what will happen on primary day if voters think Rubio is getting out the next day.
Conant's vociferous denial seems to me to be more based in panic than in righteous indignation. His failure to even acknowledge that stories of Rubio dropping out have been buzzing about for two days and lay blame totally on CNN for running a false story was ham-handed, at best, and and exercise in diversion at worst.
The only real issue has nothing to do with whether the campaign likes the story or why they didn't ask the campaign for comment. The only issue is whether the report is true.