It's official: the Club for Growth has endorsed conservative upstart Marco Rubio in Florida's Senate race, over moderate Gov. Charlie Crist (R).
This should come as a surprise to no one: Rubio has been accumulating national support from conservatives since the beginning of his campaign. In May, conservative bloggers (the most prominent being RedState's Erick Erickson) began criticizing NRSC Chairman John Cornyn for backing Crist, and then, in June, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) backed Rubio as well--all amid accusations that Crist was too moderate.
The Club is in the business of supporting fiscally conservative candidates, sometimes in primaries against incumbent Republicans. In the 2008 election cycle, they launched an offensive against Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), who, thanks to the Club's efforts, lost his primary to conservative Andy Harris, and the seat eventually went to the Democrats.
(This trend on the Club's part, by the way, has not gone unnoticed. Some would say that it's better to keep a moderate Republican in office than to lose the seat altogether.)
But now, the Club's moment seems to have arrived. The conservative grassroots have been swept up in fiscal conservatism, and they're fresh off a semi-victory in NY-23, where the Club backed Conservatve Party candidate Doug Hoffman and became one of the central financial players in the race, spending almost on par with the big boys--the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee--adding just over $1 million to the race, including bundled donations.
The Republican, Dede Scozzafava, eventually had to drop out, Hoffman lost, and the rest was history. It proved, at least, that conservative pressure can trump GOP backing for a liberal Republican candidate.
"Marco Rubio is the real deal, one of the brightest young stars in American politics today, and a proven champion of economic liberty," Club President Chris Chocola said today. "He is a dynamic spokesman for the principles of limited government and economic freedom, and he will make a fantastic Senator."
Which is true. He's held office before, and he's generally regarded as a better candidate than Hoffman--a bit sharper and more ready for the big time.
There's a solid chance that the Florida Senate primary will be a bigger deal than NY-23. Expect the Club to lead the way in getting some money to Rubio and attacking Crist with TV ads.