In his announcement at Miami’s Freedom Tower on April 13, Marco Rubio is expected not only to officially join the race for the presidency but the race for donor dollars in his native Florida.
It’s a race that many expect his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush to win hands down. But while Bush has signed up mega donors to cut checks for his super PAC from the area, there are tens of millions more Florida dollars for the taking that Rubio and the rest of the GOP field are fighting over.
Indeed, the Sunshine State is steadily growing as a fundraising mecca. It was the second-largest source of money for Republicans among all states in the 2012 presidential cycle, dumping in $31 million. And it’s expected to give far more in 2016. And unlike New York, California, and Massachusetts, where dollars flow in predictable channels to candidates with certain attributes, Florida’s money follows as twisty a path as an Everglades river, creating fund-raising opportunities for candidates of all stripes.
Rubio has an April 7 fundraiser for his leadership PAC and campaign committee in Tallahassee with lobbyists and pro-Israel backers associated with Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. A source close to Adelson and the lobbyist associated with him who arranged the event, Nick Iarossi, say the fundraiser is no reflection on Adelson’s interest in the race.
But Rubio is hardly alone in tapping Florida’s wide open checkbooks. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is making regular forays in hopes of locking up key donors like Stanley and Gay Gaines and billionaire donors Frayda and George Lindemann. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently picked up Meredith O’Rourke, finance director for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and held a meet-and-greet in Jupiter, Florida, put together by Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Another Scott ally, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made a recent stop to raise funds for a Jacksonville mayoral candidate, and many expect he’ll soon be back to collect checks for himself.
This may be a surprise to some people in and out of the campaigns who expected that Bush’s only competition for Florida dollars would be his home-state rival, Rubio. But in just the last few years, the state has seen a sharp influx of wealthy entrepreneurs of varying stripes, from liberals to libertarians to Wall Street-oriented conservatives.