Marco Rubio is benefiting from pockets of discontent in Jeb Bush’s sprawling money network, winning over donors who believe the 44-year-old freshman senator from Florida offers a more compelling persona and sharper generational contrast against Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Rubio is working to seize the moment by making an all-out push to lock down financial backers in the coming month, hopscotching the country in a nonstop series of fundraisers that are limiting his presence on the campaign trail.
While he faces stiff competition in the money race from Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in particular, Rubio’s in-person courting sessions are starting to pay off. Longtime Bush loyalists and other big-money players on the right have emerged from the meetings raving about his abilities, according to people familiar with private gatherings he has had across the country.
“After meeting Marco and listening to him — he is almost astounding, he is so articulate and he has got such great vision,” said Anthony Gioia, a top GOP fundraiser in Buffalo. Gioia raised more than $500,000 for George W. Bush and then served as his ambassador to Malta, but he is supporting Rubio this time. “I hate to overuse the word ‘transformational,’ but I really feel he is,” Gioia said.