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Big money supporters could be just the thing Marco Rubio needs for 2016

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Jeb Bush and his blockbuster GOP fundraising effort in the run-up to a likely presidential campaign has left fellow Floridian Marco Rubio wondering if there will be any money remaining.

Not quite, as billionaire Miami auto tycoon Norman Braman steps up to the plate, says Ed O’Keefe and Matea Gold in The Washington Post.

Braman, a longtime Rubio supporter, could put up to $10 million into a super PAC supporting Rubio if (and when) the Florida senator decides on a White House run.

“If there is a super PAC that’s founded,” Braman told reporters recently, “I will give substantially.”

He did not give an exact figure.

“I don’t pay any attention to that other distinguished Floridian,” Braman said about the other Florida name in the running. “I respect Jeb Bush, but I think we need someone who represents the next generation.”

Braman would be just the boost Rubio needs as he gets closer to announcing a presidential campaign, expected sometime next month says The Post.

Rubio does face challenges. Donors are starting to line up behind  Bush and Republican Gov Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Nevertheless, Rubio has been quietly on a national tour, reestablishing his financial base with donors from his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.

The 43-year-old from Miami also made a series of impressive appearances; one to a group of conservative donors in Rancho Mirage, Calif., as well as the Club for Growth gathering in Palm Beach, winning over a small, yet influential group that sees him as part of a new generation of leaders.

“There are a number of people in a similar financial position that have indicated strongly that they will be supportive,” Braman told reporters.

Rubio counts among his supporters several people tied to the political network structured around billionaires Charles and David Koch. In addition, he has been actively courting billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, most recently at a meeting Monday in Washington.

“I don’t think Marco is going to hurt for money at all,” said Scott Weaver, public-policy head of the Wiley Rein law firm based in Washington, D.C. Weaver is helping to launch Rubio’s fundraising.

Rubio has the backing of Wayne Berman, former finance chair of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and a top adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Although advisers said it would be difficult to match Bush’s blockbuster fundraising – nearly $100 million in the first quarter alone – Rubio may not need to.

His plan is to start visiting early-primary states, leading up to debates in August – building momentum.

With a reputation as one of the GOP’s best orators, Rubio is able to win over donors immediately.

“I’ve been at events this year where people will come in and have a notion of who they will likely support,” Weaver told The Post. “And by the time they spend an hour with Marco, they say: ‘I’m in. What can I do?’”

Back in Florida, Braman is Rubio’s most valuable player, on his side since he was a state legislator about to become Florida House speaker.

Braman — with a net worth of about $1.9 billion — was impressed with Rubio right away, calling him “an extremely intelligent, bright young man.” He immediately became a donor, patron and friend of the family, even joining Rubio on a visit to Israel.

After Rubio had won his U.S. Senate seat, Braman was one of the individuals featured in a tribute video. There, Braman projected that Rubio could make it all the way to the Oval Office.  “I haven’t changed my opinion,” he added.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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