Senator Marco Rubio plans to announce his campaign for president on April 13 in Miami, two Republicans familiar with his plans said Saturday.
That could make Rubio the third Republican senator to enter his party's presidential nomination contest, which is shaping up to be one of the most wide-open races of recent election cycles. Ted Cruz of Texas last week became the first formally declared candidate, and Rand Paul of Kentucky is expected to announce his plans April 7 in Louisville.
Rubio, 43, is also expected to compete with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is in the midst of a fundraising blitz that could collect $100 million in the first three months of the year. Bush said this month that he might not formally announce his own campaign until the summer.
A Rubio adviser acknowledged that April 13 is a likely date for the announcement but cautioned that it was not locked down and the time and place could change. Aides plan to work early next week to put together various options for both timing and venue in preparation for a final decision, the adviser said.
One of the leading contenders for the venue for Rubio's announcement is the iconic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, according to one of the Republicans interviewed, who requested anonymity to speak about plans that haven't been formally announced. The Tampa Bay Times first reported on Friday that Rubio may use the tower as the backdrop for his announcement on that date.
That hometown location could highlight Rubio's personal story as the son of Cuban immigrants who left the island in the 1950s and worked as a bartender and hotel maid. He portrays it as a quintessential American experience, and says it gives him insight into how to solve pressing problems such as rising student debt and the widening gap between rich and poor.
In Bush, a son and brother of former presidents, Rubio faces a towering figure in Florida politics. The men live a few miles apart in Miami. Rubio has said his friendship with Bush wouldn't dissuade him from jumping into the 2016 race. “If I don’t run, it won’t be because Jeb is running,” he told the New York Times in December.
The former Florida House speaker rose to national prominence in 2010 after his underdog primary bid against sitting Governor Charlie Crist, then a Republican, was lifted by a wave of Tea Party activism.
Rubio would become one of the youngest candidates in the field. He is regarded as a top GOP communicator, capable of captivating large audiences and interacting with small crowds in the type of town-hall settings that are important in the first two states to hold presidential nominating contests, Iowa and New Hampshire.
His stock dropped in 2013 after he co-authored a Senate bill proposing to overhaul immigration policy. The measure passed in the chamber with bipartisan support, but was anathema to the Republican Party's conservative base and was never considered in the GOP-controlled House.
He has spent much of the last two years attempting to repair his relationship with the base. It appears not to have paid off in the polls, at least so far: He won support from 4 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers in a Quinnipiac University poll in February. He garnered just 3 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters in a Suffolk University poll this week.
But it may have helped convince voters to withhold final judgment. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in March shows that 56 percent of Republicans say they could see themselves supporting Rubio, more than any other potential candidate.
Rubio is up for reelection to the Senate in 2016, and his switch to the presidential race would intensify the down-ballot contest for his seat. (He has said he won't try to get around Florida rules and run for president and Senate at the same time, as Paul has shown interest in doing in Kentucky.)
Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy announced a bid for the Senate seat this week, saying he'd run regardless of Rubio's decision. Crist, now a Democrat, and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, have said they will not seek the post. Barack Obama narrowly won the Sunshine State in 2008 and 2012.