Prominent North Carolina Republican donor and businessman Art Pope announced Thursday that he’s endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
Pope, a former budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory and owner of Variety Wholesalers, said he’ll be contributing money to Rubio and soliciting donations for his campaign.
“I think he’s the best qualified candidate based on his public service and life experiences, and I agree with him on most of the issues,” Pope said Thursday.
Pope declined to say how much he’ll donate to Rubio, noting that he never announces contributions before he makes them. He said he personally met with nearly every Republican presidential candidate before throwing his support behind Rubio.
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Pope’s announcement comes amid reports that major Republican donors across the country are concerned about Donald Trump’s continued lead in the polls. Pope said he’s never supported Trump but that the GOP frontrunner didn’t factor into his decision to back Rubio.
“Donald Trump is the frontrunner because the media keeps asking about Donald Trump,” Pope said.
Pope joins two other prominent Rubio supporters in North Carolina. N.C. House Finance Chairman Jason Saine of Lincolnton and N.C. Sen. Andrew Brock of Mocksville were tapped in October to lead Rubio’s campaign in the state.
Rubio’s campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, is visiting North Carolina this week to meet with top supporters, according to a Rubio spokesman.
A Public Policy Polling survey released this week found that Rubio was tied for third place in North Carolina with neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Both had support from 14 percent of likely Republican primary voters surveyed, putting them behind Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
About 56 percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Rubio, while only 26 percent viewed him unfavorably.