Add Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam and State Auditor Andrea Lea to the pile of endorsements from Arkansas GOP officeholders for Marco Rubio. Both announced that they were backing presidential hopeful yesterday, when he was in town for a rally in Little Rock.
Rubio has previously announced endorsements from former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Congressmen Steve Womack and Rick Crawford, and 28 other state legislators in addition to Gillam.
The big fish here remains Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Endorsements aren’t everything, but they can help move the needle in a primary; the nod from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley seemed to give Rubio a little bump there. Hutchinson is a popular governor and could probably push some undecided voters into Rubio’s camp. I’m on record predicting the governor will back Rubio before the March 1 primary. We’ll see. Arkansas is one of the few states in the SEC primary that Donald Trump isn’t dominating. The last poll of the state showed Ted Cruz leading with Rubio and Trump close behind but that was some weeks ago. The “Marcomentum” stories would be a lot more credible if Rubio actually wins a state. I wouldn’t rule out Arkansas as a chance for his first win.
Meanwhile, Rubio has recently announced endorsements form Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. The party has decided, in other words, on Rubio. We’ll see if the voters agree.
By the way, at least ten Arkansas legislators from the Tea Party wing have endorsed Cruz. It’s worth remembering that the GOP in Arkansas remains divided over the private option, and some voters may be feeling bitter toward the Republican establishment in the state and Hutchinson in particular. This year, anti-establishment is the place to be in the GOP primary, so I do wonder about a backlash. Most of the loudest opponents of the PO are backing Cruz, although some are for Rubio (Rubio’s state chair is Sen. Bart Hester, as Tea Party as it gets).