There are worse weeks to have when announcing a presidential bid.
A new poll conducted in the Sunshine State finds that Marco Rubio has a slight (if statistically insignificant) lead over perhaps his biggest rival in the hunt for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Jeb Bush.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s splashy presidential-campaign announcement and his subsequent media blitz has likely helped him catch up with friend and former mentor Jeb Bush in their home state of Florida, according to a new poll of 400 registered Republican voters.
Rubio garnered 31 percent support from Republicans and essentially tied Bush’s 30 percent, according to a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted Tuesday through Thursday and shared exclusively with POLITICO. The other likely and announced presidential candidates polled in the single digits and 17 percent were undecided.
Rubio’s slight edge is statistically insignificant, in part, because it falls easily within the margin of error. But the poll is instructive nonetheless.
One of the greatest and most pressing concerns for Rubio before taking the plunge, I assume, was whether or not he could secure enough donors and supporters to lock up his home state—a state that he just so happens to share with establishment juggernaut Jeb Bush. If he can't win Florida, so the argument goes, he might as well sit this one out. So, of course, the skeptics urged Rubio stay in the Senate, defer to his mentor, and keep quiet presumably because Bush is unbeatable in Florida, and thus launching a presidential campaign undercutting him would inevitably go down in flames.
Ultimately, however, Rubio refused to back down.
“I've heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn,” Rubio said earlier this week when announcing his presidential bid. “But I cannot. Because I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as president.”
He has a compelling message that moves people to open their wallets—and their minds, too. Thus, as this poll seems to demonstrate, perhaps Rubio didn’t make a mistake after all giving up his Senate seat.
Perhaps—and this might be news to Team Bush and everyone else watching—the state of Florida is very much up for grabs.