A list of key supporters released by Bush’s campaign on the eve of his official announcement set for Monday includes the names of Miami’s powerful troika of Cuban-American Congressmen — Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo.
Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart had previously announced they were backing Bush in the Republican primary over Sen. Marco Rubio.
Curbelos’s recent endorsement shows a united front for Bush over their fellow Cuban-American and Miami native Rubio.
The freshman senator from Florida, Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants.
He served as speaker of the Florida House before being elected to the U.S. Senate. During his rise to the Speakership, as well as his surprise victory over Charlie Crist in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, Rubio has drawn solid support from South Florida’s influential Cuban-American vote.
“I’m with him; I’m all in with him,” Diaz-Balart said of Bush. “I don’t think there’s anybody more prepared to be president than Jeb Bush,” he told The Hill.
“Jeb Bush’s executive leadership experience both as governor of Florida and in the private sector make him exceptionally qualified to renew America’s economic promise and restore our leadership role in the world,” The Shark Tank.com quoted Curbello.
Bush also succeeded in May in hiring Rubio’s longtime friend and Senate campaign manager Jose Mallea as head of Hispanic outreach for his Bush’s Right to Rise political action committee.
The defections of key Cuban-American leaders from Rubio’s circle may indicate he faces an uphill battle in the Florida primary if he squares off against Bush.
“Everybody here realizes Marco is a good man, a solid man,” popular Miami radio and TV host Carlos Perez tells Newsmax. “But the most important thing is to win the 2016 election and we need a winner, and that’s Jeb Bush.”
Perez, who worked closely with President Reagan and acted as his unofficial point man in Miami during the ‘80s, says many Cuban-Americans believe Jeb Bush is more qualified than Rubio for the presidency.
“People are realizing Jeb is a real executive and a real conservative,” Perez says. “And if you compare Ronald Reagan’s time as Calif. governor to Jeb’s time as Florida’s governor, you’ll find that Jeb was more conservative than even Reagan.”
A recent St. Leo University poll of Florida Republican primary voters say Bush is their first choice, 30 percent, followed by Rubio at 24 percent and the crowded GOP field behind them.