From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Tea Party favorites Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio will campaign together in South Carolina next month, according to a Republican source.
The conservative South Carolina senator and the fresh-faced Florida Senate challenger, considered a rising star in Republican circles, will make three stops together March 15th to Charleston, Columbia and Greenville.
The events will be fundraisers for Rubio, the source said -- though there will be a joint fundraising committee, so DeMint will also benefit.
Rubio is running against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and has gained in the polls of late, particularly with the support of the right. When Rubio spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference his speech drew the largest crowd of any speaker -- about 3,000, according to reports.
The news of the events, first reported by CNN, has stirred talk of a potential Rubio presidential bid. After all, no Republican has won the GOP nomination without winning the South Carolina primary since 1980, when the primary first mattered.
But the source dismissed that.
"Some are trying to spin this as a 2012 toe in water, and that's just ridiculous," the source said, adding that Crist enjoys a built-in advantage from a money standpoint. "This is going to be a long, tough battle. ... The reason [for the events] is to help Rubio to get the resources he needs to run against more well-funded Crist."
*** UPDATE *** Also, look for the launch of www.DeMintRubio.com coming later this week. "It will simply be a way to encourage folks to come out to these local events," the GOP source said.