The super PAC backing Marco Rubio has concluded, on the heels of Rubio's standout Republican primary debate this week, that the Florida senator has only three rivals in the race. And none of them are named Jeb Bush.
On Friday, Conservative Solutions PAC sent political donors a memo obtained by the Miami Herald that praised Rubio's performance and spelled out which candidates PAC leaders consider to be Rubio's biggest competition.
"When you consider all the angles, as we do, we believe there are really only four candidates with a reasonable chance of becoming the Republican nominee: Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz," the memo said. "And when you look on to the general election against Hillary Clinton, we are convinced that Marco gives the GOP its best chance to win. The Clinton Machine itself openly acknowledges that Marco is the candidate they most fear."
Unmentioned is Bush, Rubio's hometown rival who failed to get the win he needed in Wednesday's debate -- in what appears like a calculated move to poke the former Florida governor. (A Clinton campaign memo leaked earlier this week and reported by Politico showed her staff still worrying about Bush.)
Though federal law bans super PACs from coordinating with candidates' campaigns, Rubio fundraisers are ready to poach Bush donors, especially in Florida, who may be looking to back a new horse in the race, or to at least hedge their bets.
Some Rubio supporters think he can draw especially from Carson's base of support. If Trump voters then fall mostly to Cruz -- assuming that Carson and Trump, the current frontrunners, don't remain in the lead -- then the GOP nomination could come down to the race's two Cuban Americans, Cruz and Rubio, with Rubio as the establishment choice (despite his effort to position himself as somewhat of an "outsider").
The one-page memo, written by Warren Tompkins and Jon Lerner, acknowledged the "many twists and turns" of a presidential campaign but noted Rubio has edged up in the early polls "slowly but steadily."
"There will surely be more changes in the months ahead," the memo said. "However, that doesn't mean every candidate is equally well-positioned. We want Marco to be ahead at the end of the 9th inning, but the 9th inning itself is not the only one that matters. What you do during the innings that lead up to the 9th has a big impact on your ability to win."
While Conservative Solutions PAC hasn't aired any television ads to help Rubio -- unlike Right to Rise USA, the super PAC paying for pro-Bush ads in early states -- the memo said the group has produced a spot, and gave donors a link to view it online. The 30-second spot strikes an inspirational tone and is heavy on Rubio's son-of-immigrants biography. ("He believes in the American Dream because he's lived it.")
"As you know, our PAC has not yet run a single TV ad," the memo said. "But we are very well prepared to do so at the right time."
Conservative Solutions PAC had raised about $16 million as of June 30, the most recent information available. A sister political group, the nonprofit Conservative Solutions Project, which had amassed a similar amount of money by the same date, has been airing ads praising Rubio's policies for months. (View our interactive graphic here.)
Here's the ad:
Download the memo.