Despite a competitive (if not contentious) 2016 GOP primary battle against former President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has Trump's endorsement in his bid for reelection next year.
In fact, the onetime rivals now share a mutual respect.
Indeed, Rubio says, he won't even challenge Trump, whom he called "the most popular and most influential Republican in America," should the former president make another run for the White House in 2024.
"If he decides to run for the president and the nomination, he's going to be the party's nominee," Rubio told Newsmax TV's "Greg Kelly Reports" on Wednesday. "That's the way I see it.
"He hasn't made that decision. It's still a long way down the road, but if Donald Trump decides to run in 2024 again, he's going to be the Republican nominee, and I think almost everyone that I've talked to would agree with that."
Rubio is not the first potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination to signal he'd defer to Trump. Onetime ambassador Nikki Haley said this week she wouldn't run against Trump and would support his presidential bid, should he run.
As for Rubio getting Trump's endorsement in his reelection bid, he told Kelly the Trump name carries weight, and votes, in Florida. Trump, a longtime New Yorker, recently opted to list Florida as his home.
"We worked very well together with the Trump White House and the president," Rubio told host Greg Kelly. "We did a lot of positive things together, a very productive time and a very good working relationship.
"And, plus, this is one of the things we don't pick up on: This is an extra-special endorsement because he's a resident and voter in Florida. So, I don't just need his endorsement, I need his vote and the votes of all his family who are also moving to Florida."
As for the current president, Joe Biden, and his announcement this week that he'd draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the long-running conflict there, Rubio has concerns. He fears the withdrawal from Afghanistan might allow al-Qaida terror groups to "reconstitute" in the country and threaten security of Americans again.
"The question is No. 1, how to we do it in a way that is safe for our men and women who are still stationed there?" Rubio said. "And second, what we really need to keep our eye on, if we're not going to be in Afghanistan, there's a high likelihood – and I hope I'm wrong about this – but there's a very high likelihood that the Taliban retakes that country almost entirely or partially.
"And, once they do, al-Qaida is going to return and establish a safe haven there. And we know what happened the last time they had a safe haven in Afghanistan."
Rubio acknowledged the pullout plans have their roots in the Trump administration. But he also said there needs to be a plan to address a potential vacuum left for terrorism.
"We need to have a plan on how we're going to address al-Qaida so they can't reform, come back together, and all of a sudden, three or four years from now, we're facing new threats here in the homeland and other parts of the world," Rubio said. "That really needs to be our focus now."
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