Report: Rubio advised to drop out before Florida

Advisers to Florida Senator reportedly suggest he drop out of the presidential race before a possible defeat in his home state.

Ben Ariel ,

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio

Some of Florida Senator Marco Rubio's advisers have suggested that he drop out of the Republican presidential race before the Florida primary on March 15, sources told CNN on Monday.

According to the news network, a battle is being waged within Rubio's campaign about whether he should remain in the race.

Rubio himself is "bullish" on his odds of winning the critical primary, despite some advisers who are less hopeful and believe a loss there would damage him politically in both the short- and long-term, according to CNN.

Publicly, the campaign is maintaining they are still a contender in this race, touting a Sunday win in Puerto Rico's primary that delivered Rubio 23 delegates. But privately, the campaign is having a debate about whether he should remain in the mix even for his home state of Florida's primary.

"He doesn't want to get killed in his home state," one source familiar with the discussions told CNN, noting "a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future."

Rubio's victory in Puerto Rico came after a poor Super Saturday showing in which he failed to win a single state, and was also only Rubio's second victory since winning Minnesota on Super Tuesday.

Alex Conant, Rubio's communication director, said reports of an internal debate on Rubio possibly dropping out of the race were "100% false."

"That is fiction," he told CNN, adding, "I was sitting in a senior staff meeting planning out next week's schedule when I saw this report suddenly air and I came racing across town to correct it."

Conant pointed to the fact that Rubio appears to be closing in on GOP front-runner Donald Trump's lead in Florida.

A Monmouth poll released Monday shows Rubio behind Trump, 38% to 30%. A Quinnipiac poll released two weeks ago put Rubio behind Trump by a wider margin of 44% to 28%.

But despite Conant's statement, said CNN, most of the senator's advisers agree he does not have a path to the nomination and some are advising him to get out ahead of the March 15 primary.

Sources within the campaign also said the pressure will only continue to mount following an expected disappointing showing Tuesday, when voters in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho make their picks in the GOP primary.

"Not going to have a great day is an understatement," one campaign source said.

At the same time, others within the campaign are urging Rubio to stay in the race, predicting a better-than-expected finish in Florida.

Rubio has started to directly attack Trump, a tactic used by other candidates as well. Last week, Rubio was among those who blasted Trump after he was endorsed by former Ku Klax Klan leader David Duke, even though Trump disavowed the endorsement.

He also claimed that Trump is “anti-Israel” at one of the televised Republican debates, in a reference to Trump's comments when he promised to be "neutral" and "unpredictable" in pressing peace talks on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).