Kansas Republican Sam Brownback has become the first sitting governor to endorse Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
Governor Brownback issued a statement on Monday hailing Rubio as “a true conservative” who will ultimately prove as the GOP’s best possible chance at retaking the White House in November.
Brownback, who unsuccessfully sought his own GOP nomination in 2007, cited his shared views with Rubio on healthcare and abortion as justifications for the endorsement.
“Marco Rubio is a true conservative who can unite the party and defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the fall,” Brownback told The Kansas City Star. “In the past, conservatives have been forced to make a choice between their heads and their hearts. This year, we are fortunate to not have to make that choice.”
Brownback had previously endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry as his pick for the GOP nomination in 2011. Despite his view that Perry was the “right leader for this moment in history,” the Texas Governor failed to win support from Brownback’s fellow Kansas. Rick Santorum comfortably won the state’s 2012 Republican primary with 15,290 votes. Rick Perry earned just 37.
With Perry having already withdrawn his name from this year’s race, Governor Brownback had been coy about announcing his 2016 favorite.
Last July, Brownback welcomed Donald Trump’s loud entry into the ever-increasing field of GOP candidates, but argued he thought it “would be difficult” for the pugnacious New York billionaire to win in a rural state like Kansas.
By contrast, Brownback said on Monday he thought Rubio “will be a wonderful president.” Brownback’s son-in-law, Eric Teetsel, has also served in Rubio’s national campaign staff as the Senator’s faith outreach director.
Senator Rubio’s campaign wasted no time publicizing the endorsement, seemingly anxious for a public show of faith to help Rubio recover from a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire last week.
Yet, according to pollsters at RealClear Politics, Rubio is currently closing in on GOP leaders Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz leads Rubio by less than one point, at just 21 percent.
Support for Trump has fallen slightly in recent days, but the outspoken candidate still leads his two closest rivals by eight points.
According to Senator Rubio’s Midwest spokesman, Jeremy Adler, Governor Brownback’s endorsement clearly illustrates just how far Rubio has come in earning the support and admiration of America’s more hard-line conservatives.
Rubio currently leads his GOP opponents in terms of political endorsements from sitting U.S. politicians. According to Adler, Brownback is “one of the most conservative governors in the country.”
“Just like Governor Brownback, Marco has consistently defended life, small government and free enterprise throughout his career in public service,” Adler said in a statement. “We are honored to have earned the Governor’s endorsement and are glad he is a part of our growing team of conservatives to ensure that Marco defeats the Democrats this November.”
Kansas Republicans will not hold their own caucus until March 5. However, Brownback’s endorsement could potentially add a small boost to Rubio’s performance in South Carolina on Saturday.
That being said, some of Brownback’s fellow Kansans placed little interest in Monday’s announcement, arguing Brownback should be directing less attention to the national stage and more focus at home.
“How does Sam Brownback, who has an 18% approval rating, think that his endorsement of Marco Rubio even matters to the people of Kansas?” Senate Majority Leader Anthony Hensley told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “What matters to the people of Kansas is for the governor to admit that he is leading our state in the wrong direction.”
Brownback’s premiership has been defined by the implementation of a wide array of controversial policies relating to healthcare and education that have not been well-received by residents. As a result, Brownback’s approval rating in Kansas has plummeted by 35 percent since 2012, according to one poll by MSNBC, sitting bellow even that of President Barack Obama.
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