- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - As the Republican presidential scramble heats up ahead of Georgia’s March 1 primary, the state’s elected leaders are starting to take sides, with Marco Rubio picking up support Monday from a conservative congressman from south Georgia.

Rep. Austin Scott, introducing Rubio at a campaign event at a Buckhead hotel in Atlanta, cited national security concerns as his reason for backing the Florida senator. “He’s a man of action,” said Scott, who added that many of the other candidates “are just full of a bunch of talk.”

Scott, a Republican, did not call any of the other GOP hopefuls by name.

He becomes the third GOP House member from Georgia to endorse in the presidential race. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville backs Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Rep. Jody Hice of Bethlehem endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Georgia’s place in the nominating process - March 1 is a mini “Super Tuesday” that follows the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada - ensures that candidates will frequent the state to meet voters, raise money and court high-profile supporters.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has support from several state legislators, has made several stops in the state, including recent trips to The Varsity eatery in downtown Atlanta and a swing through the University of Georgia campus Saturday ahead of the Georgia-South Carolina football game. Walker, Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich also have made stops in Georgia in recent months.

“This state is going to play a more important role than ever,” Rubio said Monday.

Rubio offered about 200 supporters his standard half-hour campaign speech, promising more educational and economic opportunities for the middle class, along with a muscular U.S. presence in world affairs.

With Scott’s endorsement, Rubio earns the backing of a conservative congressman who won office in 2010 as a tea party candidate, though Scott has angered some activists within the movement since going to Washington.

Rubio, who also won his seat in 2010 as a tea party favorite, finds himself trying to appeal both to the establishment and anti-establishment voters in a campaign where non-elected officials - retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former CEO Carly Fiorina and businessman Donald Trump - are winning favor.


Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .

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