(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) stunning decision to drop out of the race for president will aid one rival in particular, according to political analysts and observers: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).
Hours after Walker announced he would drop out of the race, political strategists and analysts were quick to deem Rubio the greatest beneficiary from Walker's demise.
"Rubio and maybe Kasich," Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at the Potomac Group said in an email.
"You get the sense, however, that Rubio is very well-positioned to gain strength. His favorable scores are excellent, he appeals to all wings of the party, and he's showing policy gravitas," Valliere added.
The reasons? After his lauded performance in last week's Republican presidential debate, Rubio is quickly becoming a new establishment favorite.
But he also is a candidate who, like Walker, appeals to both the establishment and more conservative wings of the Republican Party. And the expectation is that many of his donors — and perhaps some of his staff — will swing over to Rubio's campaign.
Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and the editor-in-chief of RedState, told Business Insider in an email that he's heard most of Walker's donors seem to be favoring Rubio as an alternative — with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) also in the mix.
"Rubio mostly," Erickson said in an email. "A few of his guys will go to Cruz. I know one who is looking at Jeb. But as I wrote this morning, I think we’re going to see a Cruz v. Rubio primary and I think the way Walker donors are splitting proves it."
Rubio looks stronger after impressing at the second Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday. A new CNN poll of Republican and Republican-leaning voters surveyed after the debate showed Rubio garnering 11% of the vote, up 8 points from a previous CNN poll earlier in September.
The surge put him in fourth place behind front-runner Donald Trump, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. One top Walker donor told The Washington Post he donated to the campaigns of Rubio, Fiorina, Carson, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) after the debate.
"I'm smart enough to know there could be big changes," media mogul Stanley Hubbard, the donor, told The Post on Monday before news of Walker's decision to drop out became public.
Several Republican campaigns already looked to gain supporters and donors like Hubbard from Walker's campaign on Monday.
Almost immediately after news broke of Walker's decision to drop out, Walker's co-chair in New Hampshire Cliff Hurst told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he would be supporting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). And according to BuzzFeed, Rubio's team was among four campaigns that had already reached out to former Nevada Gov. Bob List, Walker's Nevada campaign chair.
"Scott Walker is a good man who entered the presidential race after winning three grueling campaigns in four years," Rubio said in a statement on Walker's departure from the field.
"I know many people are disappointed with Scott's announcement and I respect what a difficult decision it must have been. He remains one of the best governors in the country and I have no doubt that he'll continue the fight for conservative principles."
Bush's campaign, meanwhile, announced on Monday that longtime Wisconsin GOP leader Richard Graber was backing the former Florida governor.
And every Republican candidate — even Trump — played nice and praised Walker amid his departure from the race. But Rubio was the consensus front-runner to grab up Walker's support and infrastructure.
"Rubio and Carly. Rubio because donors and the political class have long viewed the two similarly — a new, conservative face of the national party with a good record who can appeal to every segment of the Republican voting block," one veteran Republican strategist told Business Insider.
"Carly may benefit because she’s poised, based on her rise in the polls and continued over performance as a candidate, to enter into an important place in the primary — an outsider with substance. [I] suspect some Walker backers yearning for a true conservative alternative to other establishment candidates — Bush and Rubio — may give her a strong look."
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