PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Fighting to revive his political prospects, Sen. Marco Rubio returned to the presidential campaign circuit and beefing up a political organization that could lay the groundwork for a White House bid.
In the clearest sign yet of his interest in a presidential run, the Florida Republican visited New Hampshire yesterday, his first appearance in an early-voting state in more than a year. He headlined a pair of fundraisers in Republican-rich counties and met with local officials, efforts that will grant him an audience with activists and donors in the home of the nation's first presidential primary. He was the star attraction at Rockingham County Republican Committee's Freedom Founders Dinner in New Castle,
At the same time, he has reshuffled his staff and directed his political resources to three key Senate races this year, including a GOP primary in Iowa. The first voting of the presidential primary season occurs in the Iowa caucuses.
Taken together, Rubio's actions are part of an effort to strengthen his standing in a potentially crowded 2016 presidential field after a year in which he saw his popularity slip over his backing of an immigration overhaul.
The renewed push also comes as the GOP establishment turns its attention to the freshman senator's onetime mentor, Jeb Bush. Many party insiders and major donors are signaling their preference for the former Florida governor, which could threaten a potential Rubio candidacy.
Neither man has publicly declared his intentions for 2016, but Rubio had proved a prolific fundraiser, tapping his donor-rich home state and the political networks of the past three GOP presidential nominees. Last year, he raised about $8.3 million — more than Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky or Ted Cruz of Texas, both tea party stars who are also weighing White House bids.