Hmm: Rubio Camp Denies Report of Imminent Romney Endorsement

Posted: Feb 21, 2016 1:01 PM

One key to Marco Rubio's come-from-behind victory among the not-Trump crowd in South Carolina was consolidating the support of popular elected officials in the state. With the Nevada caucuses pending, Team Rubio has rolled out the endorsement of Silver State Senator Dean Heller -- who'd previously backed Jeb Bush, and who is joining Rubio on the stump today in advance of Tuesday's voting:

Heller is in his first full term, having narrowly won his 2012 race in a state that Barack Obama carried by six points over Mitt Romney. The freshman, a former Congressman who was first appointed to the upper chamber in 2010, won by dominating in Nevada's rural areas. His support is somewhat valuable for Rubio, but you'd better believe his campaign would prefer to have Gov. Brian Sandoval on board. Sandoval is a Latino, a moderate Republican, and an overt Trump opponent.  He's also extremely popular in the state, enjoying a job approval rating in the high-50's to mid-60's.  Will he remain on the sidelines?  Tick tock.  Which brings us to the aforementioned Mr. Romney.  The last GOP standard-bearer remains broadly well-liked among Republicans, and could potentially help Rubio in Nevada, which is home to a sizable Mormon population.  Romney won dominant victories in this contest in both 2008 and 2012.  His blessing would also signal that the so-called party establishment was rallying behind the candidate who is promising to unite the conservative movement. The Huffington Post reported this morning that a Romney endorsement of the Florida Senator was imminent, which was promptly denied by the campaign:

For what it's worth, I heard a similar rumor last week, but when I sought confirmation, sources close to Rubio told me they'd heard no such thing.  Incidentally, the Floridian lived in Las Vegas as a child for several years, so he'll certainly try to present a 'homecoming' narrative ahead of the caucuses; he could use another boost, though. If Romney does, indeed, have designs on throwing his support behind Rubio, what is he waiting for?  Public polling of the race, which has been quite scarce, presents a familiar dynamic: Donald Trump holds a large lead, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio effectively tied for second, pulling nearly 20 percent each.  Bush, Kasich and Carson draw 16 percent combined support. I'll leave you with Nate Silver's take on the state of the Republican race vis-a-vis Rubio.  Even if this data is on Team Marco's side, their path to victory relies on externalities that are developing very slowly, as Trump amasses a delegate lead:

This is similar (though not quite identical) to Cruz's map to the nomination, by the way, which is why neither remaining Senator is likely to exit the race any time soon.  Advantage, Trump: