As Mitt Romney rides the crest of his historic back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire into the Palmetto State, he would benefit from a surprise endorsement by a prominent Florida political figure — such as Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican strategist and political commentator Bradley A. Blakeman tells Newsmax.
“I think there’s going to be a surprise in South Carolina in the sense that I would look to Marco Rubio to endorse Romney before South Carolina for sure,” said Blakeman in an exclusive interview on Tuesday following the New Hampshire primary.
“I think if Rubio wants to be considered for vice president, then he’s got to step up to the plate now because it would also be a test of Rubio’s effectiveness in Florida,” said Blakeman, who served as a member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff.
Blakeman said that it would be a mistake for Rubio to hold off on endorsing Romney until after the South Carolina primary.
“Rubio has got to also use the time to organize his statewide organization and send the word out and get commitments that the people who support Rubio are going to support Romney,” according to Blakeman, who serves as a professor of public policy, politics and international affairs at Georgetown University and appears regularly on Fox News.
Rubio insisted as recently as Dec. 22 that he will “absolutely not” accept an offer to be part of a presidential ticket with only one year under his belt in the Senate.
Blakeman predicts that South Carolina will boil down to a three-way contest between the former Massachusetts governor, Texas Rep. Ron Paul — who finished second in New Hampshire and third in Iowa — and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who came within eight votes of Romney in the Hawkeye State.
He said that South Carolina will be a “huge test” for Romney.
“If he has a win there I think he is going to have a great win in Florida,” predicted Blakeman. “If he comes in second, then I think Florida becomes very, very important.”
Blakeman said that South Carolina will also be a test for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has had two fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“He has a chance of taking Romney down, but this is his last stand. It’s not only about defeating Romney as it is about pulling yourself up,” said Blakeman. “If you just defeat Romney and come in fourth to someone else, how does that help you? You’ve got to give people after two fourth-place showings a reason to vote for you — not against Romney.”
Blakeman gives Paul a chance in South Carolina for the enthusiasm his campaign has generated.
“People are excited about his showing. He’s never had this kind of success before,” said Blakeman. “Young people are energized and I wouldn’t discount him. He ran great interference in New Hampshire and did much better than people expected him to.”
He says Santorum could do well in South Carolina based on historical voter preferences.
“Historically, South Carolina has either validated New Hampshire or Iowa,” he said. “They’re not a state of upsets generally.”
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