Ex-GOP primary rivals Rubio, Paul, land Trump endorsements
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They traded barbs with Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries before becoming major supporters during his four years in the White House — and now Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky are the latest GOP senators running for reelection in 2022 to land the former president’s endorsement.
Trump on Friday morning gave Rubio his "Complete and Total Endorsement."
"Marco has been a tireless advocate for the people of Florida, fighting to cut taxes, supporting our Second Amendment, our Military and our Vets, a strong national defense, and all of the forgotten men and women of America," the former president wrote in a statement released by Save America, his leadership political action committee.
Trump went on to say, "Marco worked with me to reform the VA and help our small businesses grow, and with his help, we achieved the lowest ever unemployment for women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and almost all Americans. Together, we worked closely with the Cuban and Venezuelan communities, and have made great progress."
Rewind five years, and during the heat of the 2016 Republican president primaries the two contenders where hurling insults at each other — with Trump deriding Rubio as "little Marco" and a "low-life," and the senator calling Trump a "con artist" and spotlighting his "small hands."
Trump’s Friday endorsement appears to officially put to an end rumors and speculation that Trump’s daughter Ivanka – who like her father has made Florida her adopted home state – would challenge Rubio next year.
A Rubio spokesman said two months ago that Ivanka Trump had called Rubio to offer her support to his reelection.
Rubio, who was first elected to the Senate in the 2010 tea party wave and ran for reelection in 2016 after dropping out of the White House race, faces no serious primary threat. Possible Democratic challengers in next year’s general election include Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy.
On Thursday, Trump also formally endorsed Sen. Rand Paul. The libertarian senator from Kentucky, like Rubio, was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and unsuccessfully ran for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination before ending his bid and winning reelection.
And like Rubio, Paul also clashed with Trump on the 2016 presidential campaign trail before becoming a major supporter of the president.
Paul accused Trump of being a "fake conservative" and a "delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag." Trump, in turn, insulted Paul as "a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain" and mocked the senator’s appearance.
Paul hasn’t formally announced a 2022 reelection campaign but has said he plans to run for a third six-year term in the Senate. And like Rubio, he faces nominal intra-party opposition. Democratic 2020 Senate candidate Charles Booker, the Black state lawmaker who came close to winning his party’s nomination, is considering launching a challenge against Paul.
A couple of hours before he backed Paul, Trump encouraged another two-term GOP senator - Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – to seek reelection in 2022. Even though Johnson’s yet to indicate whether he’ll run for reelection, the former president endorsed him.
The spate of endorsements in recent weeks come as Trump remains extremely popular with Republican voters and retains immense clout of GOP politicians. And it comes as the former president, more than two months removed from the White House, vows to continue to play a kingmaker’s role in Republican Party politics, as he repeatedly flirts with a 2024 presidential bid.
The former president’s frenetic pace of endorsements should come as no surprise.
Corey Lewandowski, a longtime top Trump political adviser, told Fox News in January that the former president would remain "actively involved" in the 2022 GOP primaries.