It's yet another high profile endorsement for Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio: Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the House Republican Conference and a possible contender for the 2012 GOP White House nomination, has thrown his support behind Rubio. Rubio has long been a national conservative darling, enjoying the enthusiastic support of conservative activists and the influential Club for Growth, and now he's got the polling edge to back it up: polls taken since Jan. 20 by Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, and Fabrizio McLaughlin have shown Rubio ahead by three, 11, and 14 percentage points respectively.
The surge has been enough to spark rumors that Crist is interested in dropping out of the race--the race he entered last year as a heavy frontrunner and star candidate for a national Republican Party that was in shambles...questions were raised about whether the GOP could field competitive campaigns in 2010...whether they could raise money...whether they would become an irrelevant, regional party confined to the South...and the centrist, money-raising Crist was an answer to all that (though an unpopular answer within the pure-conservative sect of Republicanism) so much so that National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (TX) made an unusual move and endorsed Crist in the primary.
The tables seem to have turned; support for Rubio equals political capital with conservatives; other politicians seeking national conservative support will be all but precluded from endorsing Crist.
Pence joins Mike Huckabee as notable possible 2012ers to have endorsed Rubio.