(CN) – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday night will endorse Sen. Marco Rubio for president at a campaign rally in Chapin, a small, affluent, lake town in the state’s Midland’s section.
The endorsement by Haley, who is widely popular in the state, is expected to give Rubio a significant boost as South Carolinians prepare to cast their ballots in the Republican presidential primary on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Previously Haley had indicated only that she would not endorse Donald Trump, the New York real estate tycoon who is currently sitting atop the polls. As recently as Tuesday the governor was telling reporters she had not made up her mind on who to support for the presidency.
Those privy to her thinking said she seriously considered throwing her political clout behind former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped her raise money for her 2014 re-election bid. However, Bush has languished in various polls in recent days and currently sits at fifth in a six-candidate field.
As a result, the governor now see Rubio as the establishment candidate to best challenge Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is now second in the polls.
(Ohio Gov. John Kasich is fourth and Dr. Ben Carson is sixth.)
The last presidential primary candidate Haley endorsed was Mitt Romney in 2011, but he was soundly defeated in South Carolina by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Haley’s star, however, is on the rise thanks to her handling of last year’s Charleston church shooting and her successful effort to have the Confederate flag removed from the state house grounds.
Just last month Haley delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and she’s been informally touted as a potential vice presidential candidate.
Haley joins Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, who heads a special panel investigating the Benghazi attack, as prominent South Carolina politicians in the Rubio camp.
Her endorsement will cap a long day of campaigning for Rubio, who began Wednesday in Mount Pleasant, S.C. and appeared in Aiken. S.C. this afternoon. In stump speeches across the state, Rubio spoke of why many people don’t support conservative candidates and why he thinks they’re wrong.
“The people who don’t vote for us are the people who have been convinced that Republicans are for the rich and the Democrats are for the working class … but that’s a lie,” he said in Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston.
“Do you want to know why? Because Democrats are for big government, and you know who wins with big government? The rich and the privileged,” Rubio continued. “History shows that the more the government dominates a country, the more likely it is the same families and same companies have been on top forever.
“Why is that? Because when government is big, it is the people who can afford to deal with it and wield influence who are the winners; everyone else gets left out,” he said.
Later he added, “When you bury our economy with pages and pages of regulations, a big multinational corporation will hire an army of lawyers and accountants and lobbyists to deal with those regulations, but a small business that you open in a spare room in your home cannot … and you get left behind.”
He then went on to present himself as both a conservative vowing, among other things, to defend the Second Amendment and the constitution, to repeal Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba open and the conservative who can unite the Republican party.
“If we are still fighting amongst each other in October, we lose,” Rubio warned. “If we are still fighting amongst each other in September, we lose.”
“And if we do lose, that means Obamacare becomes permanent, Dodd-Frank becomes permanent, it means our military continues to get gutted, it means the deal with Iran stays in place, and it means our next Supreme Court justice will not be anything like Antonin Scalia. It will be some like the people Barack Obama has appointed the last few years and, if that happens, the Constitution is in a lot of trouble.”
Among those listening to Rubio in Mount Pleasant was Bill Evans who said he believes “Marcomentum” is growing again in the aftermath of the candidate’s disastrous debate performance in New Hampshire. As evidence he pointed to the numerous attack ads against Rubio being aired on local television by the Cruz, Bush and Trump campaigns.
“It’s because they know he’s gaining,” Evans said.
“It’s unfortunately these campaigns have become so negative,” observed Dick Kinney, another Mount Pleasant resident.
“I think the candidates have spent too much time bashing someone else, rather than focusing on the issues,” he said.
Evans said a solid showing by Rubio in South Carolina could go a long way toward blunting the appeal of Donald Trump in particular, who he dismissed as both a media creation “He said outlandish stuff, people responded, and the media said, ‘Please say more’ and as the object of fascination of “What I’ve been told are the less intelligent Republican voters.”
Kinney laughed at that comment. Evans then grew serious.
“None of this matters none of it if we can’t beat Hillary,” he said.
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