- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gained the endorsement of former Congresswoman Anne Northup on Friday and named her chairwoman for his state campaign, as he takes steps to compete in Kentucky’s first ever presidential caucus.

Northup chose Rubio over fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul, who is also running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. Rubio, a U.S. Senator from Florida, is not seeking re-election.

Northup said she chose Rubio over Paul because she said Rubio is “electable” and can gain “the confidence of the people” because he is young, charismatic and “people are naturally drawn to him.”

“Compared to a couple of the other candidates that might have those qualities, he is also able to work with people, not vindictive, not negative, not accusatory. People want to follow him,” Northup said. “They don’t feel like he’s lecturing them, they feel like he is inviting him to be part of his team.”

Kentucky normally has a presidential primary in May. But in 2016 the state will have its first ever presidential caucus in March because Paul requested it. That way, Paul can run for president and for re-election to his Senate seat at the same time without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election.

But with Paul’s campaign faltering in the polls, many see Kentucky’s caucus as an opportunity for others in the enormously competitive field of GOP candidates to pick up valuable delegates. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has already visited Kentucky, headlining a state party fundraiser in September and has already paid the $15,000 filing fee to participate in the caucus. Louisville-based political consultant Scott Jennings is running a pro-Bush super PAC.

“To walk away from Kentucky because Sen. Paul is running sort of conveys the message we are not interested or we don’t consider Kentucky important,” Northup said. “I think Sen. Rubio will be the candidate next fall. And I think that he wants Kentucky to know that he would like their support now.”

Paul said he expects to have a “spirited contest in Kentucky,” adding: “Everyone is welcome.” He has discounted his low national polling numbers, pointing to Kentucky’s recent election for governor where Republican Matt Bevin won by a wide margin despite trailing in every public poll prior to the election.

“I think there is a good indication that our polling is not very good and we should discount a little bit and not make any real serious conclusions based on polling in our country,” Paul said.

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