Watch Marco Rubio’s full interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday, at 9 a.m. ET.
Marco Rubio might run for reelection if Florida's lieutenant governor, a close friend of his, had not entered the race
"Look, I have a real good friend I've known for a long time who I was running for the Senate with."
Marco Rubio said he would consider running for re-election to the Senate if Florida’s lieutenant governor, a close friend of his, had not entered the race to succeed him.
Rubio, who said last year while he was running for president that he would not seek re-election, offered a new window into his thinking in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper set to air Sunday on “State of the Union.”
Tapper asked the incumbent if he would run again had the state’s no. 2 and close friend, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, not run in his place.
“Maybe,” Rubio replied.
“Look, I have a real good friend I’ve known for a long time who I was running for the Senate with. I didn’t run. I said I wasn’t going to. He got into the race,” Rubio said. “I think he’s put in time and energy to it and he deserves the chance to see where he can take it.”
Later Friday, a spokeswoman for Lopez-Cantera, Courtney Alexander, said the lieutenant governor wasn’t stepping aside.
“It looks like the press needs a narrative going into Memorial Day weekend,” Alexander said. “Carlos Lopez-Cantera is focused on winning this Senate seat, and Senator Rubio has been supportive of Lopez-Cantera’s candidacy. I’ll let that speak for itself.”
Chris Hartline, spokesman for businessman Carlos Beruff, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for the Senate seat, said his boss wouldn’t drop out it Rubio jumped in.
“Carlos Beruff is staying in this race. Marco Rubio made the right decision in 2010 when he refused to get pushed out of the race by the power brokers in Washington,” Hartline said. “As usual, Washington Republicans think they can control the race, but the voters of Florida will decide who our nominee is, and we feel confident about where we are.”
Rubio is under increasing pressure – from prominent senators as well the party’s presumptive presidential nominee – to run again for his Florida Senate seat, rather than leaving the seat open to a possible Democratic pick-up in November. On Thursday night, Donald Trump – who fought bitterly with Rubio during the presidential primaries – tweeted that Rubio should seek re-election.
“Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida. Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!” Trump tweeted.
The former presidential candidate also said he was frustrated with reporting that emerged during the presidential race that he “hated” the Senate. Rubio said he did not.
“If my term had ended in 2018 instead of 2016, I might very well have run for re-election,” he said.
Republicans face a steep challenge this fall to hold on to control of the Senate, and Florida’s Senate seat currently held by Rubio is one of several battleground state where Democrats see an opportunity for a pickup.
On Sunday morning the Democratic National Committee released a new video using Rubio’s comments on “State of the Union” to mock the Florida senator’s reversal on Trump.
The video strings together clips of Rubio calling Trump a “con artist,” not ready to be commander-in-chief, with a 40-year record of “sticking it to the little guy.” It then shows Rubio telling Tapper that he would “most certainly be honored to be considered” for a speaking slot on Trump’s behalf at the Republican convention.
On Friday, the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said in a statement that it would support Rubio if he decides to run.
“We felt confident about betting on Rubio back in 2010 and would do it again in a heartbeat, but right now it’s hard to imagine making that same investment without him as our candidate,” said Steven Law, the head of the group.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Teddy Davis contributed to this report.