Runner-Up Rubio Heads To Arkansas, Bush's Exit Means Little In State

Former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
Credit NPR

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is campaigning in Little Rock Sunday, one day after his second place finish in South Carolina's primary. Pundits predict Bush's exit from the race, following a 4th place showing, could help establishment-friendly Rubio or John Kasich. But it likely won't alter the Arkansas political dynamic heading into the March 1 primary.

South Carolina Results: Trump 32.5, Rubio 22.5, Cruz 22.3, Bush 7.8, Kasich 7.6, Carson 7.2

Rubio, a U.S. Senator from Florida, has the support of every Arkansas congressman and state legislative leader who has made an endorsement thus far. He's speaking at the State House Convention Center in Little Rock on Sunday between stops in Tennessee and Nevada.

The big catches of Governor Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman, and U.S. Reps. French Hill and Bruce Westerman are still unannounced. Many commitments were freed up after former Governor Mike Huckabee left the race following a 9th place Iowa finish.

The former governor of Florida on the other hand had little support in Arkansas heading into Super Tuesday. A Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College poll earlier this month reported just 1 percent support for Bush.

Ted Cruz had the most support at 27 percent, Marco Rubio 23 percent, Donald Trump 23 percent, Ben Carson 11 percent, Don't Know 6 percent. John Kasich 4 percent,  Carli Fiorina 4 percent, Jeb Bush 1 percent, and Chris Christie had 1 percent support.

Former Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives Davy Carter (2013-15) was the only person close to the state Capitol that I'm aware of who backed Bush. Carter thanked Bush for the way he ran his campaign.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, while not an announced supporter of Bush, commended the Bush campaign.

The governor's spokesman J.R. Davis also chimed in while taking a dig at Trump.

Trump hasn't secured any endorsements from elected officials but he did draw 7-9 thousand to Barton Coliseum in Little Rock the day after the Iowa caucus. He also spoke last summer at the Republican Party of Arkansas convention in Hot Springs.

Ted Cruz, the U.S. Senator from Texas, has made two campaign swings hitting several Arkansas stops, both before the Iowa caucus. About a dozen state legislators, including State Rep. Bob Ballinger, back Cruz. So does Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson drew about 1,000 in Little Rock before the Iowa caucuses and also stumped in West Memphis. He has not announced endorsements from Arkansas officials.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has not made a stop in Arkansas and has the support of two state legislators. State Rep. Matthew Pitsch (R-Fort Smith) and State Rep. Doug House (R-N. Little Rock). Arkansas Family Council staffer Ken Yang, who failed in a bid for the GOP state treasurer nomination in '14, worked with the campaign in S.C.

Sending an e-mail from half-way around the world Rep. House told KUAR that Kasich got his support shortly after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie exited the race following the New Hampshire primary.

I am in Hawaii at a remote location (Barking Sands Navy Base)...I am now pulling for Governor Kasich. Running a government is simply not the same as running a business, or just talking about making laws and policy.