Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio for president on Monday. Rubio came in second behind real estate tycoon Donald J. Trump in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday.
“He can unite the party, and you can’t ask for much more than that,” Pawlenty said on CNN’s “New Day.” The former governor called Rubio “strong,” “informed,” “conservative,” and “electable.”
“I think he’s got the total package, and I think he’s going to bring forward the strongest voice, the strongest image, and really the most thoughtful and informed, strong view about how to move this country forward from a conservative perspective,” Pawlenty added.
Pawlenty, a Republican candidate for president in 2012, dropped out of the race in August 2011 after a third-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll. Minnesota holds its Republican caucuses on March 1.
Tillis, a former speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, won election to the Senate in 2014. His story mimics that of Rubio, who was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives before he won his Senate bid in 2010. While Rubio ran as the “Tea Party” challenger to former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Tillis faced his own “Tea Party” challenger in physician Greg Brannon.
“Like myself, Marco came from humble beginnings and worked very hard to get to where he is today,” Tillis said in a statement released by Rubio’s campaign. “Marco lived the American Dream, and he will ensure that each and every one of us can do the same.” Tillis said he chose Rubio because the senator “has an unmatched ability to inspire and uplift the American people.”
North Carolina holds it Republican primary March 15, and is a big swing state.
In Nevada, which holds its Republican caucus Tuesday, Rubio picked up the endorsement of GOP Representative Cresent Hardy, a long-shot winner in 2014. On Monday, Hardy joined Nevada’s U.S. Senator Dean Heller, Representative Mark Amodei, and actor Donnie Wahlberg, who had endorsed Rubio previously.
After Donald Trump’s major wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the leadership of the Republican Party seems to be coalescing behind Rubio. According to FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker, which gives one “endorsement point” to congressmen, five to senators, and ten to governors, Rubio has 130 points, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz has 22, Ohio Governor John Kasich has 20, and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has one.
In an election which seems to be favoring outsiders, however, Trump’s current score of zero may give him the real boost, although the endorsement of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin might be a black mark on that record. Ten “Establishment” points to the Donald!