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Chairman of Benghazi committee endorses Rubio for president

Last modified: 12/28/2015 1:31:06 AM
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, has won the support of Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi. Gowdy is one of the most popular members of Congress among the restless GOP base.

“Marco is a rock solid conservative and a strong leader we can trust,” Gowdy said Saturday. “I look forward to campaigning in Iowa with him, and introducing my good friend to voters across the state.”

According to Rubio’s campaign, Gowdy will appear with the senator at six of his seven planned Iowa stops next week. It’s a major show of support from a Republican who had previously recoiled at the idea of making a 2016 endorsement and who joked with colleagues like Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican, for getting behind candidacies that went nowhere.

But in recent months, Gowdy had been flirting publicly with a Rubio endorsement. In September, Gowdy traveled far from his upstate South Carolina district to appear at a Rubio fundraiser near Dallas. Last week, when NBC News reporter Alexandra Jaffe spotted Gowdy and Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, at a Rubio event in Anderson, S.C., Gowdy said cryptically that “it oughta say something for Timmy and I to be out here far from where we live on a Saturday.” Less cryptically, he told one crowd that he hadn’t seen “anyone that does a better job of communicating principled conservatism in a hopeful way.”

Rubio has rolled out a series of endorsements from conservative members of Congress who describe his appeal with similar language. Few if any have the appeal of Gowdy, who defeated an incumbent Republican in 2010 and became one of the party’s most relied-upon interrogators in congressional hearings.

His 2014 appointment to lead the Benghazi committee won atypical, universal praise; that committee’s struggle to find a “smoking gun” with Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints has not cooled conservative ardor. When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that the committee’s damage to Clinton had been a political accomplishment, the anger helped cost him a promotion to speaker of the House. At the same time, Republicans like House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz floated Gowdy as a possible replacement for McCarthy, an idea that Gowdy himself had to quash.

“To do a good job at anything, you have to have both interest and acumen,” Gowdy told New York magazine’s Marin Cogan. “I was 0-for-2. I didn’t have the interest, and I wouldn’t be good at it.

Gowdy’s frustration with Washington, and his interest in heading back home, is one of the Congress’s worst-kept secrets. That gives his decision to stump for a Republican candidate, and not merely vet him, even more impact.


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