U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is preparing to launch a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, signing on a prominent fundraiser and planning trips to early voting states, a Rubio adviser said on Friday.
Rubio has chosen Anna Rogers, the finance director for conservative group American Crossroads founded by former President George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, to lead his fundraising effort, the adviser told Reuters in an email.
“We hired Rogers, will fundraise in California next week and visit early states next month,” the adviser said, requesting anonymity.
Rogers will start work on Rubio’s political action committee on Feb. 1 and become the finance director of his presidential campaign, the adviser said.
ABC first reported the moves, quoting a senior Rubio aide as saying, “He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president.”
Rubio, a Cuban American whose entry into the race was in question after fellow Florida Republican Jeb Bush, the son and brother of former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, moved toward a candidacy this month.
A Bush candidacy complicated the path to the White House for potential Republican rivals, including Mitt Romney, who ran unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2012. Other 2016 hopefuls competing for Republican fundraising dollars include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Rubio will make a fundraising trip through California next week and scheduled a book tour that will include stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, his adviser said.
Rubio is up for re-election to the Senate in 2016. Florida does not allow candidates to run concurrent congressional and presidential campaigns.
The 43-year-old Rubio, who served in the Florida legislature while Bush was governor, would compete with many of the same donors in their home state.
In an appearance Wednesday after the State of the Union address, Rubio said Bush, with whom he is close, is a “very credible candidate” who could raise the amount of money necessary to run a presidential campaign.
But he also said the foreign policy experience he gained in the Senate would set him apart from the current and former governors making a White House bid.
Rubio was a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s move last month to normalize relations with Cuba.
The candidates could clash on immigration, with Rubio having worked to placate conservative Republicans furious over a sweeping immigration reform bill he helped write two years ago. Bush, whose wife is Mexican-born, said in April that illegal immigrants who come to the United States to provide for their families are not committing a felony but an “act of love.”
(Editing by Susan Heavey and Chizu Nomiyama)