WASHINGTON — Closing in on an expected announcement that he will run for president, Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that he is planning a political event in two weeks in Miami to announce his 2016 plans.
The first-term Republican from Florida, appearing on Fox News, did not explicitly say he is running for the White House, instead telling would-be supporters to go to his website and reserve tickets for the rally.
“I will announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate,” Rubio said.
Rubio has said he would not run for both offices on 2016’s ballots, and his team has been moving ahead as though it was putting together a White House bid, including donors who helped previous presidential nominees collect tens of millions of dollars.
But Rubio faces steep challenges to the nomination, including from his one-time mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio could face as many as 20 other rivals for the GOP nomination.
“You’ll have to tune in on April 13,” Rubio said during his appearance on Fox News Channel, a favorite of GOP presidential hopefuls.
Rubio plans to sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05, a nod to Miami’s 305 area code. It is also a way for the nascent campaign to collect contact information from everyone who wants to be in the audience that day, including low-dollar donors.
A site for the event still has not been finalized and Rubio’s senior aides plan to visit the Miami area on Tuesday to scout options.
A first-generation immigrant whose parents fled Cuba, Rubio could make history as the nation’s first Hispanic president. Rubio frames his pitch to voters as the embodiment of the American dream, a son of a maid and bartender who worked his way through law school and now sits in Congress.
His is an appealing story for a party that has struggled to connect with minority and younger voters. Those voters have been solidly behind Democrats in recent presidential elections. Rubio’s advisers see his candidacy as a way to eat into that Democratic bloc, even if capturing it would be almost impossible.
Rubio is also likely to skip a re-election bid to his Senate seat. He had long said he would not simultaneously run for two offices, and his political advisers have told party leaders that they should start recruiting a candidate to run for his Senate seat.
But Rubio faces a hurdle with some conservative activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over his work on a failed bipartisan immigration bill that included a long and difficult pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. The measure cleared the Senate but collapsed in the House in the face of conservative suspicion.
Rubio has since shifted how he is approaching the thorny subject, saying his bill does not have the support to become law and the first focus should be on border security, a standard GOP position. Rubio ultimately wants to create a process that leads to legal status and, then, citizenship.