Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) described his endorsement of Mitt Romney last night as motivated primarily by an interest to end the GOP campaign, and avoid a messy fight at the party’s summer convention.
Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party and a darling figure among conservatives, said he decided to back Romney because he is concerned about the damage a floor fight in Tampa would cause to the GOP brand. He said the impact of an "open fist fight" on the floor would be "catastrophic" and it would diminish the chance Republicans could beat President Obama in November.
"At that point the question was do I think it's a good idea for the party to have a floor fight in August in Tampa? And the answer is I do not. I think Mitt Romney has won this primary. I think he's going to be a fine president. I think he's going to do an excellent job as president," Rubio said after a vote on Capitol Hill.
Asked to explain the timing of his endorsement, he said that when it became clear that Gingrich and Santorum couldn't win enough delegates, he made the calculation it was time to endorse.
"They have admitted the primary is over and their path to victory in August is a path to defeat in November,” Rubio explained. “Once they, by their own admission, ended the primary by saying that the only way they could win is by having a floor fight in August, the primary is over. And I don't think a floor fight in August increases our chances of winning in November. On the contrary, I think it diminishes those chances."
Rubio said that a contested convention would only entertain political junkies and excite the Obama campaign.
“In the modern era, in the 21st century, you cannot have an open fist fight like that at the convention... and beat the best funded presidential candidate in American history,” he said.
When he backed Romney last night on Fox News, Rubio said he was confident that Romney would govern as a conservative. Rubio said his grassroots reporters hadn’t voiced any complaints, though the Florida senator admitted some could be unhappy. He is prepared to do what it takes to help Romney win, including campaigning.
When asked if he could help bolster Romney's conservative credentials if he joined the ticket as VP he insisted Romney doesn't need the help.
"I think he doesn't need any bolstering. I think his conservative credentials exist both in his embrace of the free enterprise system through his success in it and also his governance of a state that isn't necessarily a bastion of conservative thought,” Rubio said. “He ran as a Republican and was elected there and governed in a way I think he should be proud of."
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Romney supporter who’s leading the effort to secure support in Congress for the former Massachusetts governor, welcomed Rubio’s announcement.
"He's a significant figure in Republican politics today,” said Blunt. “And lots of those endorsements are coming right now in ways that I think help bring this procedure to some conclusion."