Over the past few weeks, Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist has found himself being put on the defensive more and more in the primary thanks to the challenge by ex-state House Speaker Marco Rubio. While Crist has financially overwhelmed Rubio to date, there are many Republicans — particularly those in Flordia that are close to former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush — who have publicly become more comfortable airing their skepticism about Crist in public. One of those Republicans with close ties to the Bush family, Karl Rove, has signaled his preference with his wallet. Rove confirms to NBC News that he has contributed $1000 to Rubio’s campaign, the donation will be made public when Rubio files his next FEC report (due Oct. 15). More from Chuck Todd’s First Read after the jump.This comes on the heels of Jeb Bush’s public signal that he plans to stay neutral in the Crist-Rubio primary; Many believe this is Jeb’s way of quietly telling influential Florida Republicans that he’d prefer Rubio but doesn’t want to alienate Crist since he’s still the heavy favorite in the primary. For Rubio, he needs to show some viability and that begins with his next fundraising report. But the most important fundraising report might actually be by the end of the year when you’ll truly be able to see how Rubio’s been able to use the Jeb neutrality (support?) to his advantage. Remember, Jeb is to Florida Republicans what Reagan is to the party nationally; he’s held in THAT high of regard.
BTW, this is not the first GOP primary where Rove has signaled his preference via his checkbook. Rove has given money to GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her campaign to unseat GOP Gov. Rick Perry in Texas.