Insiders: Rubio wins in Walker’s demise – Politico


‘The body wasn’t even cold yet and Rubio’s New Hampshire staff was picking off dazed Walker supporters,’ says one New Hampshire Republican.

Scott Walker’s exit is a big win for Marco Rubio.

That’s the consensus of Republican insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire, with about 40 percent of our POLITICO Caucus members picking the junior senator from Florida over all other GOP contenders as the one most likely to benefit from Walker’s decision to quit.

“The second the news broke they were aggressive in courting Walker supporters to find a home in the Rubio camp and it worked to their benefit,” said a New Hampshire Republican in our weekly bipartisan pulse-taking of the top operatives, activists and strategists in the two early states.

“He is offensive to no one in the GOP,” the insider said. “As such, as candidates drop out, they may naturally gravitate to Rubio. He is the one candidate who could unify a very angry, fractured party.”

An Iowa Republican, who like all participants was granted anonymity in order to speak freely, agreed. “Many of Walker’s early supporters were decidedly not for Bush. If that holds, a new conservative voice that both holds principle and has engaged to get things done could benefit. Rubio most closely fits that mantle.”

After Walker’s sudden exit from the race on Monday, several campaigns tried to quickly snatch up the Wisconsin governor’s staff and supporters. But the spotlight quickly found Rubio, who was fresh off another widely praised debate performance and is enjoying a bump in the polls.

“He was strong in the debate and appeals to much of the base that Walker was focused on,” a New Hampshire Republican said. “He’s also a natural for picking off Walker’s donor base.”

Democrats in New Hampshire agreed — with 52 percent naming Rubio as the winner. “Rubio benefits, in the sense that a cleaner, smaller field gives him more of a chance to shine. His strategy has long been to be in the conversation when it got serious, and the field got smaller. He is the most talented candidate running, and, it appears, a very disciplined candidate, as well. As the field thins out, these strengths will become more evident.”

Only 22 percent of Iowa Democrats said Rubio was the biggest beneficiary. Most Democrats there chose Jeb Bush.

Among the Republicans who didn’t choose Rubio, there was a divide between insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire — 16 percent of Iowa Republicans said Cruz was the biggest beneficiary of Walker’s exit while 22 percent of New Hampshire Republicans said no one would benefit, a nod to the fact that Walker didn’t establish much of a base there.

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