Marco Rubio’s troubled 2016 presidential campaigned has devolved into an all-out civil war with some major donors saying he should drop out of the race immediately, and his paid staff urging him to stay the course, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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The infighting has been percolating for days, people with direct knowledge of the matter say; The battle however began picking up steam after Tuesday night’s poor showing by the candidate, who failed to win a single state or a single delegate in the Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii contests.
With that, some major donors Wednesday began to urge Rubio to drop out of the race before next Tuesday’s all-important primaries in Florida and Ohio. Recent internal polls show the U.S. senator from Florida losing his home state by a wide margin to businessman and GOP front runner Donald Trump.
Likewise, recent polls show that Rubio is failing to attract enough votes to place even among the top three candidates in Ohio, where its governor, John Kasich, is looking to upset Trump.
Rubio campaign officials deny that the Florida senator is contemplating an early exit from the campaign and say he will continue on through the GOP convention in July.
But major donors who have advised Rubio say based on their conversations, Rubio’s ultimate intentions are less certain, and while he may not drop out before Florida, they believe based on these conversations, he will drop out of the race if he loses there.
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They say the candidate has listened to their logic that by remaining in the campaign and losing in his home state to Trump, Rubio would go a long way to handing the nomination to Trump, the volatile Manhattan real estate mogul and reality TV star.
With that, they are urging him to drop out as soon as possible and endorse Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Kasich, who have a better chance of beating Trump and winning the general election. With Trump as the nominee, they told Rubio, he has all but assured that the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would win the general election in the fall given Trump’s high negatives among Independent, women and minority voters.
“If Trump wins and the GOP gets trounced, possibly even losing the senate, Marco will then take the fall,” said one GOP operative.
Rubio’s paid staffers are urging the candidate to stay in the race at least through Florida because by dropping out early, he would “look like a loser” and that would hurt his long-term presidential prospects more than anything else. And so far, he appears to be siding with the staffers.
Rubio is scheduled to attend Thursday’s CNN debate in Miami, which gives him yet another opportunity to display his policy chops against Trump, who has been erratic in such matchups.
Another issue involves millions of dollars in anti-Trump attack ads financed by GOP political action committees that are scheduled to hit before the primary; These ads could move the polls in Rubio’s direction and give him some hope of winning Florida.
But major Rubio donors are dubious, and they are advising the candidate the sooner he leaves, the better for himself and the party. “Nothing has worked against Trump so far,” one told FOX Business. “And Marco has only a small window to stop him from being the nominee.”