Some of the biggest and deep-pocketed Republican heavy-hitters opened their wallets Monday for Sen. Marco Rubio's Reclaim America PAC, which pulled in an easy $200,000.
Organizing the event: Rubio fundraiser Esther Nuhfer, whom we just learned is going to be Gingrich's finance director.
The big money wasn't as surprisinng as the number of folks who backed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, or thought he would win the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade, where 72 percent of the registered Republicans are Hispanic (nearly all Cuban).
None would talk on the record. Some are backing other candidates. Others might work for Newt Gingrich. Others might endorse Gingrich later and don't want to spoil the surprise. "Cubans are conservative people and we're Catholic. I can't get over the Mormon thing," said one attendee, referencing Mitt Romney's religion.
Others had more of a policy reason to back Gingrich: He was the U.S. House Speaker who helped push Helms-Burton Act in 1996 after the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown.
One of the co-hosts of the Rubio fundraiser was Gingrich's newly minted Florida director, Jose Mallea, the former campaign manager for Rubio's 2010 race. He was accompanied by Gingrich's daughter, Kathy Lubbers, and Gingrich's head of Hispanic outreach, Sylvia F. Garcia.
When asked about whom the Cuban-American community would side with, Rubio spoke mainly about Gingrich and Romney, though he said other candidates could enter the picture depending on how they do in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina before Florida's Jan. 31 primary.
"Gov. Romney's had some pretty significant endorsements here in South Florida that will be very helpful to him. But Newt Gingrich is a known commodity around here," Rubio said. "People followed his career. He was Speaker of the House and was pretty consistently in favor of the positions of the Cuban exile community. Gov. Romney has done a good job coming down here and getting the support of very influential leaders. If I was running in Florida, I'd want the support of Ileana and Mario," Rubio said, referring to Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart, who endorsed Romney.
Rubio's longtime friend, Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera, who appears to be close to getting a clean bill of legal health after weathering a state and federal investigation into his finances, has yet to enter the political fray and said he was neutral for now.
Rubio's staying neutral in the race. But with the hiring of Mallea, it's a good bet that more folks from Rubio world will head to Gingrich's side as he ramps up his campaign. One political hand with longstanding ties to Gingrich said the former House Speaker's biggest problem isn't raising money -- it's getting enough staff to accept all the cash that's starting to flood the campaign now that he's gaining momentum.