With Republican leaders and donors converging on Park City, Utah, this weekend for a retreat with presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, two of the leading figures from the Florida GOP will be on hand -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.
While Bush is a dark-horse prospect to wind up on the ticket with Romney, some of the leading contenders for the job -- including Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota -- will be on hand. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose name has also garnered buzz as a possible running mate for Romney, was invited to the event but could not make it due to other obligations.
While Bush has publicly downplayed his chances and pushed Rubio for the vice presidential spot, the former Florida governor remains a possible pick for Romney. On Thursday, pundit Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia listed Bush as a second-tier contender to end up as Romneys running mate. While noting that Bush has the wrong last name and doesnt seem to want the job, Sabato pointed to his strong gubernatorial resume," ties to Hispanics and his family's political and financial backing as reasons why Bush could end up on the ticket.
Mack, who is a heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, has been a longtime Romney supporter, endorsing the former Massachusetts governor early in the 2012 campaign cycle. Before his big win in the Florida presidential primary in January, Mack took to the campaign trail to stump across the Sunshine State with Romney.
Romney repaid Mack by endorsing him in the Senate race over Republican rivals, including former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon and businessman and retired Army officer Mike McCalister. While LeMieux dropped out of the race and endorsed him earlier in the week, Mack has outdistanced his remaining primary rivals in polls as well as in garnering the support of prominent GOP leaders.
Mack is the only nonincumbent Senate hopeful to be included at the weekend event, which shows that the GOP leadership expects the congressman to emerge in the August primary as Nelsons opponent.
A source familiar with both the Romney and Mack campaigns in Florida informed Sunshine State News on Thursday that the congressmans inclusion at the weekend retreat was very significant."
Expect a very synergized Florida campaign between Mack and Romney, the source informed Sunshine State News.
Besides donors and politicians, a series of political strategists and conservative commentators is scheduled to appear at the weekend event. Karl Rove will address guests at the event and there will be other Bush hands -- including former U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Gov. Jon Sununu -- in attendance. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Bill Kristol, the editor of the influential Weekly Standard, are also scheduled to attend.
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