Rubio is the only White House hopeful to make the trek to visit VanderSloot in person this year, and VanderSloot said he is leaning towards supporting the senator from Florida. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are also on the donor's short list—and he said he might end up backing more than one candidate during the primary.
VanderSloot spoke with National Journal this week to share his thoughts about the 2016 presidential race, offering a window into the behind-the-scenes courtship of donors. The transcript of that conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
National Journal: Have you decided who you're going to support in 2016?
VanderSloot: There's a lot of them, aren't there? So, we basically have our three favorites. That would be Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker. And not necessarily in that order, and for different reasons. I think they're all good guys. One thing about the large number of [candidates], I think it does show the strength of the Republican Party. I think we've got a lot of young up-and-comers, articulate and good leaders, as well as some of those who, you shake your head and say 'Really? Do they really think they can win the election and they've got what it takes to run the place?'
I'm worried about Jeb Bush. I worry whether he can become elected. Our two favorites would be Rubio and Walker. I've spent some time with Jeb Bush, and some time with Scott Walker—not as much probably with Governor Walker—and a lot of time with Marco Rubio, time we've invested in trying to see who they are and what their plans are, whether they have a strategy for the White House.
Rubio has traveled to Idaho twice this year. What were those events like?
He's really extended himself. You've got to be pretty impressed; Idaho is not normally the first stop for some of these candidates. It looks like we're getting a lot more attention this go-around than we ever have from anybody, including from Marco Rubio, but the other candidates as well. It's interesting that we're getting that much attention.
Why do you think that is?
I think that we played a larger role in the last election than we ever have as a state, in regards to individuals within the state stepping forward and digging deep into their pockets. So I think even though we don't have as many voters here, our economy has done well, we were pretty active in organizing some of those fundraisers and they were very successful, and we've moved up our primary election, while in the past everything had pretty much been decided before we did our primary.
Have any other presidential candidates besides Rubio made it out to Idaho over these past few months?
It's possible that somebody could come and us not know about it, but it's not very likely. I don't think anybody else has been here except for Marco Rubio.