Via the IJ Review. Right around the time I was writing this post last night about the center-right needing some big endorsements to give Rubio a push, NBC’s Alex Jaffe was tweeting about something curious she noticed on Rubio’s campaign website. An event scheduled for next Wednesday in Pella, Iowa, had initially been billed as a town hall with Rubio and Trey Gowdy — but then had been quietly changed to Rubio and “special guest.” Hmmmm. What’s Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Benghazi committee and a rare GOP congressman who’s popular with the grassroots right, doing at a Rubio event in a key early state?
Jaffe then pointed to this quote from a story she wrote over the weekend about Rubio’s latest trip to Gowdy’s home state:
Gowdy met [Rubio] when he landed in South Carolina and came to introduce him at his first event of the day, in Spartanburg, telling the crowd “I haven’t seen anyone that does a better job of communicating principled conservatism in a hopeful way.” In Anderson, both were joined by [Sen. Tim] Scott, who introduced Rubio as inspiring, hopeful and having an “amazing story.”
Wait, Gowdy and tea-party star Tim Scott are doing Rubio events? Indeed they are, and Rubio’s campaign website hasn’t been shy about noting it. Watch the clip below for Gowdy’s intro of Rubio at his rally in SC on Saturday. He was scheduled to do a fundraiser for Rubio in Dallas in September but ended up backing out a few weeks before. Gowdy told NRO last month that he doesn’t officially endorse candidates, but that might be changing. Here’s what he told Jaffe this weekend:
[W]hile Gowdy said “I typically don’t endorse people,” and downplayed the impact of such an endorsement, he suggested his appearance on the trail with Rubio wasn’t for nothing.
“The fact that Timmy and I are here on a Saturday, in a place where neither one of us lives, probably should tell you something,” Gowdy said.
Does Gowdy think/know that Scott’s planning to endorse Rubio too? Scott’s spokesman told reporters that he won’t declare his intentions before the Kemp Presidential Forum on January 9th, but between what Gowdy said and Scott’s own willingness to appear at a Rubio rally, the way he’s leaning doesn’t seem like a mystery. When I flagged that on Twitter, one Cruz fan replied by noting that Scott and Cruz had done an event together just two weeks ago in South Carolina. Which is true — that was part of Scott’s “Tim’s Town Halls” series, which nearly every Republican candidate, including centrist John Kasich, has participated in. That wasn’t a Cruz event at which Scott was a guest, in other words, it was a Tim Scott event at which Cruz was the guest. This was not a Tim Scott event:
Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott both intro Rubio today. Scott says of Rubio, "I can think of no one better who speaks hope" pic.twitter.com/i8yF4ASaO1
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) December 19, 2015
Seems like a sure thing that Gowdy’s ready to declare for Rubio and, given the photo above, it would be surprising if Scott didn’t eventually. Which, given Rubio’s reputation among the base as a RINO because of the Gang of Eight bill, will come as a shock to many. Gowdy, I think, is often thought of as being the same sort of conservative firebrand that Cruz is; Scott is more soft-spoken but he’s highly respected as one of the Senate’s most principled conservatives. They’re both going to give Rubio some ideological cred by association among undecideds who worry that Cruz may be unelectable but aren’t sure if Rubio will govern conservatively as president. (They’ll also force fencesitters to wonder what Gowdy and Scott see in Cruz, who’s certainly more conservative than Rubio on immigration, to make them prefer Rubio.) And needless to say, given their prominence in South Carolina, they’re going help make Rubio more of a player there than he is now. Rubio’s been eyeing SC as a landscape favorable to him for many months; if he lands Gowdy, Scott, Lindsey Graham (possible), and Nikki Haley (very possible, I’d guess), then he’s got a lot of influence behind him there. Might not matter if he disappoints in New Hampshire, but if he finishes top two, the endorsements might push him over the line in South Carolina.
Beyond SC, though, I think the chief value of endorsements like this will be as a counterweight to the claims that Rubio is an establishment puppet once the centrist endorsements for him start rolling in. As I said yesterday, people like Mitt Romney really have no choice besides Rubio at this point; neither Bush nor Christie can win so Mitt will eventually back Marco, and then Cruz fans will cite that as proof that Rubio’s every bit the donor-class golden boy they always said he was. To which Team Rubio will say: “What about Gowdy (and Scott)?” What’s the answer to that? Will Trey Gowdy be a RINO come New Year’s too?
Congressman Trey Gowdy and Senator Tim Scott hit the campaign trail in South Carolina with Senator Marco Rubio. Please Like and Share with friends.
Posted by Team Marco South Carolina on Saturday, December 19, 2015
Join the conversation as a VIP Member