Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has become the first sitting governor to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for president.
The Rubio campaign announced the endorsement Monday. “Just like Governor Brownback, Marco has consistently defended life, small government and free enterprise throughout his career in public service,” Rubio midwest spokesman Jeremy Adler said in a statement.
Kansas Republicans will caucus Mar. 5.
Brownback, a Republican who once ran for president, endorsed then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2011. Perry was a candidate for the 2016 GOP nomination but withdrew.
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“Marco Rubio has a proven track record of protecting life, defending religious liberty, and undoing Obamacare,” Brownback’s statement said. “He will be a wonderful president, and I am proud to offer him my full support.”
Brownback’s decision is a mild surprise. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is a favorite of many religious conservatives like Brownback. Jeff Roe is the campaign manager for Cruz, and he has had some influence in Kansas. Kansas is a caucus state, like Iowa, where Cruz prevailed.
He might have also endorsed fellow Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, or former Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush has appeared in Kansas with Brownback.
It’s possible Brownback may consider Rubio the most electable Republican in the GOP field. Brownback will be looking for work after the 2018 election, and may have an interest in a position with the federal government. A Republican in the White House would be a prerequisite for a federal job.
It isn’t clear what impact the endorsement will have on the Rubio effort in Kansas. Brownback is not a favorite with many moderate Republicans in the state, voters who might otherwise be drawn to the Rubio candidacy.
On the other hand, religious conservatives look to Brownback for cues — and may decide Rubio is an acceptable alternative to Cruz or Donald Trump. South Carolina holds its GOP primary Saturday, and word of the endorsement could give Rubio a small bump there.
In any case, it appears Rubio is happy to get the Brownback nod. “We are honored to have earned the Governor’s endorsement,” the campaign statement said.