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Amid FBI probe, GOP prepares for Rivera indictment, loss and future successors

Bracing for embattled U.S. Rep. David Rivera to be indicted or lose his election, Republicans have started lining up potential successors to regain the seat in 2014 if the congressman’s Democrat opponent defeats him in November.

The pressure has been building for about a month, but it boiled over last week after a series of stories by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald documented that a candidate suspected of illegal campaign activities linked to Rivera has turned on the congressman.

For the past week, a group of Miami Republicans began mulling possible future candidates, who might even challenge Rivera in 2014 should he win the election in November.

Leading the list: Jeb Bush Jr., son and namesake of the popular former governor, and state Sen. Anitere Flores. Other names include Marili Cancio, a lawyer who challenged Rivera in the 2010 GOP primary; former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who’s running for state House, and Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo.

None could be reached for comment, except for Cancio, who said “whoever is in the race will beat Joe Garcia. We can’t afford to have him in Congress.”

But Rivera’s own trusted political adviser is concerned.

“David faces a real Herculean task to keep his campaign together,” said Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political science professor who polls for Rivera.

“Everyone at a political gathering was talking about this,” Moreno said, declining to name names about the meeting of Republicans.

Making matters worse for Rivera, on Friday The Herald obtained a survey conducted by GOP pollster McLaughlin & Associates that showed Rivera losing to Democrat Joe Garcia 33-43 percent.

The 10 percentage-point margin is outside the 4.9 percent error margin for the 400 likely-voter survey taken in the newly drawn District 26 that stretches from Kendall to Key West. A Democratic poll earlier in the month showed Garcia with a 9-point lead.

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