South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy officially endorsed Marco Rubio on Monday, calling him the best candidate on national security and saying that the Florida senator is "effective" rather than "flashy."
"I'm going to vote for Marco Rubio. National security and public safety are the most important issues to me. And there is nobody better on those two issues than Marco Rubio," Gowdy told the crowd at a town hall in Clinton, Iowa.
The endorsement could give Rubio a boost in Gowdy's home state, the third state to hold a primary and one that many pundits see as a must-win for the Florida senator as he makes a play for the White House. But it could also be a boon for Rubio in Iowa, where Gowdy is joining him for two days of campaigning this week, lending the Florida senator considerable conservative credibility.
Iowa's GOP caucuses have traditionally been dominated by grassroots and social conservatives, and the two GOP candidates who commonly draw the most conservative support — Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump — have led most polls of the race there.
Rubio typically polls a distant third in Iowa, and many conservatives still eye him warily for his involvement in a 2013 immigration reform effort that eventually failed. But Gowdy is beloved by the grassroots, in large part due to his position as chairman of the panel investigating the Benghazi attacks and his grilling of Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in that role.
That could make his endorsement doubly valuable for Rubio, as Gowdy can highlight the Benghazi attacks — a key issue that Republicans believe has already damaged Clinton — on the trail. Indeed, the attacks came up on Monday when a questioner at Rubio's town hall asked about one of the Benghazi emails mentioned on conservative talk-radio, and Gowdy took the mic.
"We're going to find out when happened and then I'm going to report it to you as soon as we can," Gowdy told the questioner.
In his endorsement, Gowdy also touted Rubio's efforts to undermine Obamacare by seeking to defund the risk corridor provision in the law, calling him "the person who's doing the most" to combat the law.
"He's not going to brag about it, he's not flashy which is unusual for politics in this day and age, but Marco Rubio and his focus on risk corridors may wind up being the undoing of the so called Affordable Care Act," Gowdy said.
And he said that Rubio has the "ability to communicate our message of principled conservatism in a hopeful, aspirational, persuasive way."
"It's ok to be hopeful that the message of principled conservatism can win again," he added. "I found that hope in a place that — if you'd told me 10 years ago I would find it, I wouldn't have believed you — in the son of a bartender, in the son of a housekeeper who know what it means to live the American dream."