Republicans have a well-known history of making life difficult for consultants working for candidates challenging incumbent lawmakers in primaries.
But that won’t deter the strategists working for Carlos Beruff, the Florida Senate candidate who made clear Wednesday that he will continue seeking the GOP nomination despite Marco Rubio’s decision to run for re-election.
“The seat in Florida belongs to the people of Florida and not the politicians in Washington,” said Brad Todd, a partner at OnMessage Inc. and a strategist for the Beruff campaign. “The people will pick the senator. Marco Rubio’s willingness to break his word does not make us willing to break our word to Carlos Beruff.”
“Loyalty may be undervalued in Washington,” he added, “but it’s how we run our business.”
The statement mirrored Beruff’s own feisty remarks after Rubio announced his decision, when he said that “career politicians like Marco Rubio worry more about keeping the job than doing the job.”
Todd’s remarks could raise eyebrows in Washington, where OnMessage is seen as one of the country’s top Republican political strategy shops. It’s also closely aligned with the GOP establishment, having done extensive work in recent elections with both the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In the 2013, the NRSC told GOP firm Jamestown Associates that it would not receive any of the committee’s lucrative contracts because of its work with the Senate Conservatives Fund, which had a track record of supporting challengers to incumbent Republican senators. The NRCC similarly blacklisted the firm, effectively shutting it out of two of the biggest spends in Republican politics.
The moves were widely seen as a rebuke for backing Matt Bevin, who was challenging GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell in a 2014 primary in Kentucky.
The situation in Florida is not perfectly analogous: Rubio has returned to the race only months before the Aug. 30 primary, and Beruff has already spent about $4 million of his own money on the campaign.
But Republican operatives also spent a great deal of effort recruiting Rubio to run in what became a stunning coup for the party. Many of those same strategists will wish he didn’t have to face a primary challenge, much less against a candidate like Beruff who has tried to imitate the style of Donald Trump on the campaign trail.