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Bond endorses Rubio, earlier had backed Bush

Former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Retired U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., is endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – a move that could single a shift by more Missouri backers of  Jeb Bush, who has dropped out.

In a statement first given Friday to St. Louis Public Radio, Bond said:

“I’ve carefully looked at all the candidates running for President and it’s clear to me that Marco Rubio is the strong conservative we need as our nominee. As a former governor and senator, I know about leadership, and I’ve come to see that Marco is a born leader who will steer our country in the right direction.”

Bond added that Rubio “has many of the qualities’’ of former President Ronald Reagan, a GOP icon.

“Marco’s vision about the greatness of America and the possibilities of the American Dream fall right in line with what Reagan believed, and that’s what the United States needs now more than ever from our Commander-in-Chief,” Bond said.

“I spent nearly four decades in public service fighting every day to expand opportunities for my constituents, and I’m confident that Marco Rubio will continue that fight for all Americans as our president. I am proud to be endorsing him and hope Missourians will join with me in supporting him on March 15.”

The Rubio campaign issued Bond’s endorsement, a sign that Bond – who held top Missouri posts for almost 40 years – is working closely with the Florida senator now that Bush, a former Florida governor, is no longer running.

Rubio earlier had snagged the support of the two top Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly: Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and House Speaker Todd Richardson.

Bond’s endorsement might encourage more former Bush backers in Missouri to shift to Rubio, rather than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

So far, no prominent Missouri Republicans have endorsed party frontrunner Donald Trump, although several – including Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. – have said they’ll support Trump should he win the nomination.

Despite Friday’s announcement by Bond, a Rubio spokesman indicated that it was unlikely Rubio would have time to visit Missouri – or, at least, the St. Louis area – before the March 15 primary.

Rubio expects to spend a lot of time campaigning in Florida, which also has its primary March 15.  Florida’s added enticement is that it’s a winner-take-all state for Republican contenders. Missouri’s GOP delegates will be awarded proportionally, by congressional district, unless a candidate gets at least 51 percent of the statewide Republican primary vote.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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