Billionaire investor Paul Singer has endorsed Marco Rubio for president, giving the Florida senator some much-needed momentum going forward in the campaign.
But is it a game-changer?
Perhaps not immediately. But Singer’s circle of GOP heavyweight moneymen assures that the candidate will have plenty of cash at least through the early primaries when the field is expected to dwindle to just a handful of viable candidates.
The battle for Mr. Singer’s support — which included months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by aides and appearances by candidates over the last year at dinners and breakfasts convened by Mr. Singer — underscores the growing clout of big donors in presidential elections, particularly this year, when “super PACs,” and the wealthy donors who finance them, have moved to the center of the race.
But Mr. Singer provides something that some other coveted Republican donors do not. Unlike Sheldon Adelson, a fellow Republican billionaire and Israel supporter, Mr. Singer is an assiduous and effective “bundler” for candidates: In the 2012 campaign, he raised more than $3 million to try to help elect Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee. Many other donors, particular in the New York financial world, turn to Mr. Singer’s political advisers for strategic guidance on their own donations.
And Mr. Rubio, who struggled to raise campaign cash over the summer and has relied heavily on outside groups to pay for advertisements promoting him, needs their help.
Both Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bush eagerly sought Mr. Singer’s backing, as did Mr. Christie, and all three have ties to the wealthy hedge fund manager.
Mr. Rubio has aggressively embraced the cause of wealthy pro-Israel donors like Mr. Adelson, whom the senator is said to call frequently, and Mr. Singer, who both serve on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an umbrella group for Republican Jewish donors and officials. Mr. Bush has been less attentive, in the view of some of these donors: Last spring, he refused to freeze out his longtime family friend James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, after Mr. Baker spoke at the conference of a liberal Jewish group.
Singer is pro-immigration reform and pro-gay marriage, but he required no “litmus test” issues for his backing. He has cultivated Senator Rubio for years, supporting him in his 2010 campaign for senator against then Florida Governor Charlie Crist. It was thought at the time that Rubio, who was far behind the vastly better-known Crist, got a huge boost from Singer’s endorsement as he went on to win the GOP nomination easily.
The role of financial whales like Singer has been much debated this election cycle, but as Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and other candidates not favored by the establishment have shown, there’s plenty of cash to be found online via social media. Donors like Singer are important in the early stretches of a campaign, but eventually, the big donors “max out” and can’t give any more. This is where an army of small donors can make a difference down the road and keep a candidate viable.
As candidates begin to fall away, where their donors go can be vital to remaining hopefuls. It is thought that if Jeb Bush were to withdraw, many of his big supporters would switch to Rubio. With recent polls showing Rubio getting a small bump from the debate, the addition of Singer, and perhaps some donor defectors from the Jeb Bush campaign, will give the Florida senator the ability to flood the zone in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina while hoping for a breakthrough that would propel the candidate into the delegate-rich month of March and a real shot at the nomination.