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Bush, Rubio Appear to Court Scott Walker Ahead of Wisconsin Debate

by Hallie Jackson /  / Updated 

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Sen. Marco Rubio met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Monday night, an indication he's making moves to court the former Republican presidential candidate's support.

Rubio met Walker at a fundraising event tonight in Burlington, ahead of tomorrow's GOP debate in Milwaukee, a campaign source told NBC News.

The Florida senator appeared to be appealing to Walker's family as well. He met Walker's brother backstage at the Burlington event, and one of Walker's sons attended Rubio's pre-debate rally in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Monday afternoon, though neither Matt nor Alex Walker - two prolific campaigners for their father - have issued any endorsements.

Since exiting the race in September, Walker has largely kept a low profile, staying out of the GOP primary fray. A Walker endorsement would be a boon for any candidate, providing both a handful of major donors that still remain undecided and valuable staffers in early states.

Rubio's campaign says the senator hasn't asked Walker for an endorsement, but a campaign aide says they'd "love to have his support."

Rubio is not without competition for Walker's support. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has clashed with Rubio in recent weeks, appeared with Walker at a school choice event in Wisconsin on Monday. According to the New York Times, Bush also said he'd "love" to have Walker's support.

The Wisconsin governor was initially seen as an attractive candidate for both the conservative and establishment wings of the GOP, before dropping out in large part due to his campaign's flagging poll numbers, lackluster debate performances and poor fundraising momentum.

An endorsement from Walker, the son of a Baptist minister who frequently touted his faith on the campaign trail, would likely come with a boost of support from evangelical Christians. And Rubio's campaign is beefing up its outreach to evangelicals with the hire of Eric Teetsel, the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, a faith-based advocacy group focused on pro-life, marriage, and religious liberty issues. Teetsel used to work with American Enterprise Institute, and his first day on Rubio's campaign was Monday.

Rubio's apparent play for support from Walker and the hire of Teetsel signal that Rubio is committed to competing in Iowa, a state not initially seen as an opening for him.

Update: An earlier version of this story stated that Rubio had secured the support of Walker’s two sons. It has been updated to make clear neither have issued any endorsements in the race.

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