LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Two Arkansas congressmen and the state’s lieutenant governor backed Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination Wednesday, throwing their support behind the U.S. senator from Florida two days after former Gov. Mike Huckabee ended his White House bid.
Rubio’s campaign announced the endorsements from U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford and Steve Womack along with Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin. Crawford and Griffin had previously endorsed Huckabee, who dropped his presidential bid Monday night after a dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses.
“Marco Rubio is the Republican presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democrats are most scared to run against because his energy, enthusiasm and positive conservative vision for a stronger America contrasts with the Democrats’ tired, old ideas,” Griffin, a former congressman who was elected lieutenant governor in 2014, said in a statement released by the campaign.
Womack praised Rubio in a statement as “an unabashed conservative that can win a general election.” Crawford said the Florida senator “has the ability to unite and expand our party, and also will be able to defeat whomever the Democrats nominate this fall.”
Crawford represents east Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District and Womack represents the 3rd District in northwest Arkansas.
Most of the state’s top Republicans had backed Huckabee, who served 10½ years as Arkansas governor, before he dropped out of the race. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and several other GOP officials who had endorsed Huckabee said they would look at the other candidates.
The state’s Republican Party chairman this week said Huckabee’s exit and lawmakers’ decision to move the state’s primary up to March 1 puts the state up for grabs for the GOP hopefuls.
Rubio also has the backing of several top Republicans in the state Legislature, including the House and Senate majority leaders. State Rep. Bob Ballinger, who sponsored the state’s religious objections law, is chairing the state campaign for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.