Florida Rep. Tom Rooney has joined an increasingly desperate effort to convince Marco Rubio to reconsider his decision to retire from the Senate, telling a Florida newspaper that Republicans would otherwise “basically lose” the seat.
“Our ability to keep a majority in the Senate hangs in the balance ,” the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday.
Rubio has so far resisted mounting appeals from Senate leaders and said he doesn’t buy the reasoning that none of the five main GOP candidates running in a tight Florida primary could win the seat he is vacating.
But those calls are getting more fervent as the June 24 deadline for candidates to commit to the race approaches. And at least one of the strongest Republican candidates for Rubio’s seat — Rep. David Jolly — has said that he thinks Rubio will ultimately change his mind, prompting speculation Wednesday that Jolly is about to drop his Senate bid to make way for Rubio.
Rooney told the newspaper that he had texted Rubio, urging him to seriously consider another term, but had not received a response.
The plea joins those of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker. But Rubio has so far been unmoved. Though he has doubled down on his remaining work in the Senate after his unsuccessful presidential bid, he has insisted that heto is looking forward to a future as a “private citizen.” In a sign that he means it, he also agreed to host a fundraiser for his friend, Senate candidate and Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera , on the last day for candidates to enter the race, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Reports of Jolly reconsidering Senate run
Meanwhile, political insiders in Florida are speculating that Jolly, convinced that Rubio will run, is preparing to drop his Senate race and throw his resources into retaining his House seat.
Jolly had decided to forgo a re-election bid and run for the Senate after the district’s lines were redrawn, making it tilt Democratic.
But polls indicate that voters are still undecided in the Senate race and Jolly has shown numerous signs that, instead of going all out on that campaign, he is positioning himself to appeal to the moderate voters who would decide the race for his House seat, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith wrote in a column Wednesday.
Jolly has refused to endorse presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, denounced the fundraising culture of party elites, and scolded conservatives who won’t acknowledge global warming, Smith pointed out.
“Does this look like a man consumed with winning a statewide Republican primary?” Smith wrote. “No. What it looks like is a candidate hugging the center and consciously reaching out to Democrats, independents, and moderates alike.” The sort of voters, Smith noted, who would decide the House race in Jolly’s newly redrawn district.
Among the chorus of supporters urging Jolly to take the plunge is state Sen. Jack Latvala, who told the Tampa Bay Times that he had paid for multiple polls that showed Jolly would beat the Democratic nominee, former Gov. Charlie Crist, in a House race.
“He has been an outstanding congressman,” Latvala said.
A polling firm associated with Crist has meanwhile started surveying voters to suss out how the former governor would fare in a House race against Jolly, Florida Politics columnist Peter Schorsch wrote Tuesday. Until the rumors about Jolly began circulating, Crist appeared to have the race all but locked up , after a losing two statewide elections and changing his party affiliation twice.
Crist served as a Republican attorney general and governor, but switched to independent during his 2010 Senate bid after party insiders accused him of being too aligned with President Obama and it looked like he would lose the GOP primary to Rubio. He later lost a gubernatorial bid in 2014 as a Democrat.
Jolly did not return calls from Florida columnists seeking to confirm his intentions this week. But he told the Times/Herald Friday that he is almost certain that Rubio will drop his retirement plans. Jolly has also said he has no interest in battling Rubio for the seat.