Despite having a complicated relationship with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Marco Rubio is fast becoming the choice of Republicans in Congress in the 2016 presidential primary.
On Tuesday, House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) became the latest senior lawmaker to announce he will endorse the junior senator from Florida. Chaffetz will join Rubio on the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Friday.
Chaffetz, who briefly ran for speaker of the House last year, is Rubio’s latest high-profile pickup. He also earned the endorsement of Chaffetz’s predecessor on the investigative panel, Darrell Issa (R-CA), who campaigned alongside Rubio in New Hampshire earlier this week, and the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
Since November, Rubio has won 17 endorsements on Capitol Hill, while only three lawmakers have endorsed his one-time mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, according to an endorsement tracker on FiveThirtyEight.
With Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) out of the race, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) unable to get much traction in the polls, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) openly disliked by his colleagues, it seems Rubio has increasingly become the go-to candidate in Washington.
This is a bit surprising given the problems Rubio has had with the political establishment in the nation’s capital.
Questions about his truancy in the Senate, where he’s earned the worst attendance record as he campaigns around the country, and his legislative track record since getting elected to the upper chamber in 2010, have dogged his White House bid.
Rubio has given a number of excuses for his poor attendance, but he took a new tack on Tuesday, when he dismissed the importance of Congress altogether.
"I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda, only a president can set the agenda. We're not going to fix America with senators and congressmen," he during a town hall meeting with voters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to the Associated Press.
That line is sure to come back to haunt him during next week’s GOP presidential debate.
How much winning the race for endorsements from elected officials will help Rubio remains to be seen, especially when Donald Trump, an outsider who has never held office, has dominated the polls and the public approval rating for Congress flirts with single digits.
Rubio is now engaged in a four-way cage match with Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to be the establishment candidate as voters prepare to go to the polls in the nation’s first primary on Feb. 9 in New Hampshire.
Despite Trump’s substantial lead in Granite State, congressional endorsements could help Rubio chip away enough support from his rivals to place a respectable second and keep his candidacy viable through the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20 and into the so-called SEC Primary on March 1, when a slew of Southern states go to the polls.