Report: Rubio close to endorsing Cruz

A fine gesture that’ll rightly be appreciated by conservatives as magnanimity in service to the cause after a bitter defeat. Rubio’s support had dwindled enough by the end that this probably won’t move many votes, but who knows? If he can convince some anti-Trumpers who are leaning Kasich to come out of their stupor and vote strategically for Cruz, it’ll be worth it.

Come for the “unity” feelz, stay for the enjoyable uppercut to Jeb Bush.

Marco Rubio is close to endorsing Ted Cruz, but the two proud senators — and recent fierce rivals — have some details to work out first.

Cruz has to ask for Rubio’s endorsement, and both sides need to decide that it will make a difference, according to sources familiar with the thinking of both senators…

“There’s a difference between criticizing someone for the way they criticize your record and criticizing someone who’s a fake conservative and a demagogue who incites violence,” a longtime Rubio backer said. “We don’t want this guy [Trump] leading our party.”…

“He doesn’t want to look like Jeb Bush,” said a Rubio backer. “By the time Jeb quit, he had no credibility and his endorsement meant nothing, which is part of the reason we suspect he didn’t endorse Marco in Florida. It wouldn’t have helped, and we didn’t want it anyway.”

I don’t know if Rubio’s endorsement is worth much but having Rubio as a surrogate might be worth something, if he’s willing to do that. He was never better during his campaign than he was over the past 10 days making the case for #NeverTrumpers. One of the reasons is that it lets him play to his strength, which is idealism. Rubio’s at his best when he’s talking up the things he loves about America. His press conference this past Saturday lamenting Trump’s effect on American politics was a hundred times more effective than his “tiny hands” putdown shtick from a few weeks ago, precisely because it let him vent his idealism. If he keeps that up on Cruz’s behalf, emphasizing that a two-man race is the one and only way to stop Trump, he might reach some Kasich fans. It’s not going to reverse singlehandedly what looks like an inevitable outcome, but every bit helps.

That’s assuming, though, that Rubio wants to be a surrogate for Cruz. I can’t imagine he wants to go back out on the trail for another candidate after a year of barely getting to see his family. Maybe he’ll end up as a surrogate in major media, arguing the case for Cruz over Trump — and Kasich — on CNN. Would Cruz want him in that role? Does Cruz want support from anyone? This, from a different Politico piece yesterday, is odd:

While Kasich has a virtually impossible path to the nomination, Cruz, who has devoted his Senate career to poking his finger in the establishment’s eye, is seen as an unpalatable choice. One Senate leadership aide said that lawmakers had been trying to reach out to Cruz in recent days, but had been unable to get their phone calls returned or had been rebuffed by Cruz’s top aides. Only two senators — South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Utah’s Mike Lee — have come forward to endorse Cruz even as Rubio collapsed.

The theory for why he’d turn down congressional endorsements is that he doesn’t want to be seen as cozy with the “Washington cartel” after spending the last 12 months unloading on them on the trail. If that rhetoric starts to look hollow, he’ll start bleeding populist votes to Trump. In the meantime, though, he’s bleeding mainstream Republican votes to Kasich; a big show of support from a string of congressional GOPers with some conservative cred, like Tim Scott, could help limit that by suggesting that the party’s behind Cruz as the lone remaining anti-Trump. Besides, if Cruz was all that worried about being seen as establishment, he would have already told Lindsey Graham not to support him in any way. Instead, Graham’s holding a fundraiser for him next week. If you’re willing to accept Grahamnesty’s support in the “unity” effort against Trump, whose support wouldn’t you accept? Cruz is a longshot now. He might as well collect all the endorsements he can and hope for the best.

As for Rubio, a smart friend e-mailed this morning in response to this post and noted that just because Rubio’s not running for reelection to the Senate this year doesn’t mean he won’t run in 2018, when Democrat Bill Nelson’s seat is up. The GOP gubernatorial primary is packed with contenders but getting renominated for Senate might be easier. It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a failed presidential candidate to rejoin the Senate later, either. Barry Goldwater got elected in 1952, served two terms, spent four years in the wilderness after he lost to LBJ in a landslide, and then came back to the Senate in 1968 for three more terms. Nelson will be 76 in 2018 and might retire; even if he doesn’t, midterm elections have been much more favorable to Republicans in recent years than elections in presidential years, which is what Rubio would be facing if he changed his mind and ran for reelection now. My question is this: Can Rubio afford to go right back into public service? He’s not rich and he has four college tuitions he’ll need to pay over the next decade. I think it’s more likely that he’ll work in the private sector for the next five years, giving speeches, making friends, making bank, and then reassess in 2022. The next Senate and gubernatorial elections will be in 2022; another election, for Nelson’s seat, will be held in 2024. If Democrats hold any of those seats at the time, Rubio — just 50 years old — would be a top-flight challenger, unless of course the GOP has gone full Trump by then. Gulp.