U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will win South Carolina's most Republican coveted endorsement of the 2016 presidential race when Gov. Nikki Haley announces her support at a Chapin rally on Wednesday evening, a source with knowledge of the governor's decision told The State. Haley, the state's most popular GOP politician in polls, has decided to back the establishment candidate considered to be in best position to challenge Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
If members of the Republican establishment were the only folks voting, Marco Rubio would have the presidential nomination in the bag.
The Florida senator leads the 2016 field in endorsements from U.S. House Republicans, U.S. Senate Republicans, and now, sitting Republican governors. The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported this afternoon on one of Rubio's biggest endorsements to date.
The news is no doubt disappointing to Jeb Bush, who actively sought Haley's backing, and even helped boost the governor financially during her re-election bid in 2014.
We'll see soon enough what kind of impact this has on the results of Saturday's Republican primary in South Carolina, but it's worth noting for context that four years ago, Haley publicly endorsed Mitt Romney -- who nevertheless lost the primary to Newt Gingrich by more than 12 points.
At the time, the Republican governor said Romney, unlike the members of Congress he was running against, "knows what it's like to lead and make a decision, not just to take a vote."
Four years later, Haley is apparently backing a senator who's never led anything, and has spent much of his adult life casting a lot of legislative votes.
In the larger context, Rubio has now locked up support from many of the most prominent figures in the Republican establishment: Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, and Rep. Trey Gowdy.
That kind of institutional backing should translate into quite a few votes, though polls suggest Rubio is nevertheless likely to lose to Donald Trump on Saturday.