Trump: You know who's a great MAGA senator?

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The man Donald Trump at one time called “Little Marco”? That’s the man who just got an early endorsement from MAGA World this morning. Marco Rubio will run for re-election next year and almost certainly would have faced no GOP primary challengers of note. Trump’s endorsement probably cinches that, via e-mail from Trump’s Save America PAC:

Endorsement of Marco Rubio

It is my honor to give U.S. Senator Marco Rubio my Complete and Total Endorsement. Marco has been a tireless advocate for the people of Florida, fighting to cut taxes, supporting our Second Amendment, our Military and our Vets, a strong national defense, and all of the forgotten men and women of America. Marco worked with me to reform the VA and help our small businesses grow, and with his help, we achieved the lowest ever unemployment for women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and almost all Americans. Together, we worked closely with the Cuban and Venezuelan communities, and have made great progress. He also ruled that “President Trump was in no way involved with Russia,” as he presided over the Senate Intelligence Committee on the FAKE Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax. Marco will never let the great people of Florida, or our Country, down!

– President Donald J. Trump

Why now? For one thing, Trump is hosting a conclave of major GOP donors and party leaders this weekend, according to the Associated Press. Not all of the invitees are thrilled by this connection:

Three months after former President Donald Trump helped incite a violent attack against Congress, the GOP is bringing hundreds of donors and several future presidential prospects to the former president’s doorstep in South Florida. While a handful of Republican leaders hope to move past Trump’s divisive leadership, the location of the invitation-only gathering suggests that the party, at least for now, is not ready to replace Trump as its undisputed leader and chief fundraiser.

Trump will headline the closed-door donor retreat, which is designed to raise millions of dollars for the GOP’s political arm while giving donors exclusive access to the party’s evolving group of 2024 prospects and congressional leaders. The weekend event will play out in an oceanfront luxury hotel just 4 miles from Trump’s Florida estate, where allies of the former president will simultaneously hold their own fundraising events.

“The venue for the quarterly meeting along with Trump’s keynote speech at CPAC shows that the party is still very much in Trump’s grip,” said one of the invitees, GOP donor Dan Eberhart, referring to Trump’s February address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. “The party doesn’t seem to have the ability to hit escape velocity from its former standard bearer.”

Trump’s continued hold on Republican donors and elected officials ensures that Trumpism will remain the driving force in GOP politics indefinitely[.]

With all of these activities in Rubio’s backyard, there might have been some pressure on Trump to provide clarity on his support for Rubio. Many of the people coming to these donor functions will support Rubio one way or the other, and with Senate control perhaps in the balance, they would look with disdain on any attempt to undermine one of the best bets the GOP has in 2022 for holding a seat. Rubio remains very popular in Florida, popular enough in both wings of the party, and has the kind of reach into the Latino community that most Republicans don’t have, even in Florida.

Trump has another kind of pressure on him as well. Regardless of whether he chooses to run for president again in 2024 or decides to take up the kingmaker role, his endorsement track record will impact his influence on the party. If Trump endorses nothing but nationalist nuts who can’t win elections, it will make it a lot easier for the GOP to cast him aside. Trump needs some solid wins, preferably from challengers to the status quo for his own political bent, but he needs wins in any case. Rubio’s as close to a sure thing as he’ll find in 2022, and Rubio hasn’t crossed Trump yet — so why not? And why not now?

As for Rubio, this is mostly cost-free too. He’s already paid up in terms of his shift from Tea Party conservatism to populist activist. The endorsement will help Trump keep Rubio in that arena, but in truth there isn’t much money or support in the GOP for that traditional small-government, fiscal-restraint, institution-preserving conservatism. Trump didn’t create the hypocrisy; he just exposed it and exploited it. Rubio’s along for the ride.