Updated 12:23 p.m. | If Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chooses to seek the presidency instead of re-election in 2016, he believes there will be "no shortage of quality" Republican candidates to take his place on the ballot.
"Obviously we have a number of Republican statewide elected officials," Rubio told reporters at a Wednesday breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "We have talented people like former speaker of the [state] House Will Weatherford, we've got the Lieutenant Governor [Carlos Lopez-Cantera] in Florida, who's a close friend and very talented as well. ... And there could be someone out there now that we haven't even mentioned — I certainly was not viewed as a top-tier candidate early in the race." Rubio entered the 2010 Republican Senate primary as the underdog to then Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. But a conservative undercurrent and distaste for Crist propelled Rubio to primary victory. Crist dropped out of the Republican primary and ran as an unaffiliated candidate and ultimately lost to Rubio in the general election.
If Rubio opts not to run for Senate in 2016, Florida Republicans have also mentioned as possible candidates Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and state Sen. Anitere Flores, as well as several of the Republicans House members from Florida.
If he does choose to run for re-election, Rubio said he believed the race would be "competitive." The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rate the Florida Senate Race as Tilts Republican. "Florida is a swing, competitive state in a presidential cycle. It won't be a cake walk," he added. "But we think we have a good story to tell, we think we'll be effective in communicating that if that's the decision we make."
Rubio has said often that if he decides to run for president, he will seek that office only and forgo his Senate seat. But he declined to elaborate on when he will make a final decision.
"I know I need to make a decision in good time if I want to be able to mount a credible campaign for president," he said.
He said he was still weighing the decision, but that he was very much focused on what "the best place for me to serve this country at this time in my life and at this time in my career," not on the other candidates who might enter the Republican primary.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is actively exploring a presidential bid, raising questions whether Rubio will opt to compete against a friend who shares much of the same Florida fundraising base.
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