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Marco Rubio's top donors to meet Sunday night in Coral Gables

@PatriciaMazzei

Top supporters key to launching Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid -- deep-pocketed donors -- are expected to attend the Florida Republican's event Monday at downtown Miami's Freedom Tower.

But they will meet first Sunday night at the Coral Gables home of Bernie Navarro and his wife, Claudia -- not to write big checks but to mingle and discuss campaign strategy.

Navarro, the immediate past president of the Latin Builders Association, is a longtime friend of Rubio's. He is planning to host a stand-alone fundraiser later this month.

"Marco and I have been friends since before politics, when we were eager-beaver young guys," Navarro told the Miami Herald. 

Rubio is not expected to attract as many dollars as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has held fund-raisers across the country drawing much of the GOP establishment. His reported first-quarter goal was $100 million, though Bush's circle has pushed back on that number. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy last week, has already raised an eye-popping $31 million.

Rubio will need to woo enough donors to make him a strong contender in early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He already has the support of Miami billionaire auto magnet Norman Braman, who won't confirm a reported commitment of $10 million.

Navarro wouldn't say how much he's hoping to raise for his friend: "Whatever he asks, I will do," he said. The two met through Republican circles before Rubio was on the West Miami City Commission -- a position he won in 1998 -- and referred to the senator as "family."

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