Sen. Marco Rubio explained in greater detail today why he waded into the Republican presidential primary to endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), who Rubio was referring to, might take issue with that assertion given that Romney has yet to win the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) might also quibble. Rubio, who knows what it's like to challenge the Republican establishment's preferred candidate in a primary, acknowledged that some conservatives might be upset with his decision to declare the race over and back Romney. But he didn't back down, and in fact, he used the words of Gingrich and Santorum against them in explaining his decision and its timing.
"I'm respectful of the primary process, and I would never ask anyone to drop out. But these candidates have now admitted they can't win the primary and their path to victory now involves a convention fight. Which ultimately will lead us to the same nominee, but after a much bloodier process that diminishes our chances of victory in November. And this is no longer about whose going to be the nominee, this is about defeating the president of the United States whose taking this country in a terrible direction," Rubio said. "Once they, by their own admission, ended the primary by saying that the only way they could win is by having a floor fight in August, the primary's over."
Rubio also reiterated his concerns about what it would mean for the GOP's White House prospects to delay crowning a nominee until the late August convention in Tampa and confirmed that that one of his goals in discussing his endorsement of Romney on Wednesday evening on Fox News' "Hannity" was to discredit the notion that it would be advantageous for Republicans.
"Once the candidates like Newt Gingrich made a decision he's made, and Sen. Santorum made his pronouncements that they think their only path to victory they have is a floor fight in Tampa at the convention, I think that was an indication that the primary was over. And at that point, the question is, do I think it's a good idea for the party to have a floor fight in August in Tampa? And the answer is, I do not. I think Mitt Romney has won the primary; he's going to be a fine president. ... I'm excited about my support for him," Rubio said.
But Rubio wasn't through warning about the dangers of a contested nominating convention.
"I think it would be very exciting to cover for [reporters]; I think it will be very exciting for political junkies to watch; I think it will be very exciting for the Obama campaign to witness; and I think it will be very catastrophic for Republicans. In the modern era, in the 21st century, you can not have an open fistfight at the convention and nine weeks later defeat the best-funded presidential candidate in American history."
The convention is scheduled to run Aug. 27-30, and Sen. Roy Blunt, who has run Romney's endorsement whip operation on Capitol Hill, made a point of saying in a separate interview that in fact the timing of the convention is as much a problem as the idea of having a contested floor fight — were one to occur.
"A floor fight in my opinion would be fine if we could have it right now," the Missouri Republican said. "But putting the certainty of this nomination off until the late summer — almost the early fall — is not helpful."