HOUSTON – With two polls showing Ted Cruz's double-digit leads in Texas over Marco Rubio, a string of conservative Hispanics hoped to give Rubio a boost with their endorsements.
Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman and Republican donor, threw his support behind Rubio many weeks ago, before the New Hampshire primary.
But he has been working to gather more support for Rubio with other conservative Hispanics who object to the immigration views of Donald Trump and Cruz and believe Rubio is the only candidate who can win the Latino vote.
“There’s a movement afoot here in Texas to start circling the wagon to support Marco Rubio,” Villarreal said Thursday, just hours before the GOP candidates were to face off in a debate at University of Houston.
Villarreal told NBC News Latino that four of six GOP Hispanic state lawmakers planned to back Rubio publicly on Friday. The other two did not plan to endorse, he said.
A statewide Houston Public Media and University of Houston poll and a separate Monmouth University poll showed Cruz ahead in his home state. A winner who gets more than 50 percent of the vote could take all of Texas' 155 delegates, but that is not expected to happen. In that case, the delegates will be divided proportionally.
Members of the Hispanic Conservative Roundtable, a group of GOP Latino leaders, planned a news conference here Friday with several leaders who were to endorse Rubio.
The news conference was to follow a closed-door meeting similar to ones held by the group in Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas.
It was after the Boulder meeting that the group first publicly condemned Donald Trump, saying he was not a candidate they could support in their community. They later also publicly rebuked Cruz after a staffer told him his immigration plan regarding the 11 million people in the country illegally would be “attrition through enforcement,” which many considered similar to the self-deportation plan failed GOP candidate Mitt Romney proposed.
Villarreal said Rubio was someone Hispanics could at least "nudge" on the issue of immigration
The meeting was to include the Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, whose group included 40,000 Latino evangelical churches.