Marco Rubio won't be endorsing Ted Cruz during the Republican presidential primary, but he's likely to back the Texas senator at a contested convention -- if it gets that far. The de facto plan, Rubio's backers say, is designed to help Cruz. It also, however, protects Rubio's political future, including if he decides to make another run for the White House.
On March 15, Marco Rubio lost his home state of Florida by 20 points -- after having guaranteed a victory -- forcing the senator to exit the Republican presidential race. Two days later, Politico reported that Rubio's was "close" to endorsing Ted Cruz, but the senators had "some details to work out."
That was nearly two months ago. There's been no endorsement and there are no rumors about one on the way.
So what happened? Marc Caputo followed up on his March report with an interesting article today.
Team Rubio's thinking apparently follows a certain internal logic: the senator agrees that Trump would be an awful candidate, John Kasich can't get the GOP nomination, and Cruz deserves support by process of elimination. If push came to shove at the Republican convention, and Rubio could use his influence to undermine Trump in Cleveland, the Florida senator would do what he could.
But if Rubio would prefer a Cruz victory to any other outcome, why doesn't he just take proactive steps to make that happen?
A source close to Rubio told Politico, "[W]hat Marco isn't going to do is just endorse Ted, watch Trump win anyway and then, in four years, watch Cruz use Marco's endorsement against him if they both run for president again."
Oh, I see. Rubio wants to undermine Trump, but not if it means interfering in any way with the Rubio 2020 campaign. Doing the right thing is nice, but not if it comes at a possible cost to Rubio's long-term ambitions.
What's especially interesting about this, aside from the obvious limits of the senator's anti-Trump animus, is that Team Rubio's high hopes remain very much intact. Rubio is leaving Capitol Hill after one unsuccessful term; he's ruled out a 2018 gubernatorial campaign; and during his presidential bid, he lost 28 of the 29 states in which he competed.
It's against this backdrop that Team Rubio nevertheless seems to be thinking, "If we play our cards right, 2020 might be our year."