Washington (CNN) A battle is being waged within Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign about whether he should even remain in the Republican presidential race ahead of his home state primary on March 15, sources say.
Rubio himself is “bullish” on his odds of winning the critical primary, despite some advisers who are less hopeful and believe a loss there would damage him politically in both the short- and long-term.
Publicly, the campaign is maintaining they are still a contender in this race, touting a Sunday win in Puerto Rico’s primary that delivered Rubio 23 delegates. But privately, the campaign is having a debate about whether he should remain in the mix — even for his home state of Florida’s primary.
“He doesn’t want to get killed in his home state,” one source familiar with the discussions said, noting “a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future.”
Alex Conant, Rubio’s communication director, said the report of such an internal debate is “100% false.”
“That is fiction,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”
“I was sitting in a senior staff meeting planning out next week’s schedule when I saw this report suddenly air and I came racing across town to correct it,” he added.
Conant pointed to the fact that Rubio appears to be closing in on GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s lead in Florida.
A Monmouth poll released Monday shows Rubio behind Trump, 38% to 30%. A Quinnipiac poll released two weeks ago put Rubio behind Trump by a wider margin: 44% to 28%.
Most of the senator’s advisers agree he does not have a path to the nomination and some are advising him to get out ahead of the March 15 primary.
Sources within the campaign also say the pressure will only continue to mount following an expected disappointing showing Tuesday, when voters in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho make their picks in the GOP primary.
“Not going to have a great day is an understatement,” one campaign source said.