SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Sen. Marco Rubio's network of deep-pocketed donors was disappointed with his fifth-place showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday, but it remained intact and resolved to keep backing him as the race moves to South Carolina for the next 10 days.
The donors attempted to shake off Rubio's lackluster finish, which came after a widely criticized debate performance, by setting their hopes on a strong performance by the Florida Republican senator in the Palmetto State. They took solace in the narrowing field, hopeful that Wednesday’s exits by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina would reset the stage.
In a conference call with top fundraisers Wednesday, Rubio campaign officials emphasized the support he has in South Carolina from top Republicans such as Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Tim Scott, according to people on the call. They assured donors that Rubio has a strong network in place on the ground, including a group of conservative preachers.
Gowdy, who campaigned for Rubio on Wednesday, argued the media replayed Rubio's repetition of talking points -- which were mocked intensely by Christie in the debate -- excessively.
"I saw that loop about as often as I saw the white Bronco chase with O.J. Simpson," Gowdy told reporters.
Briefing reporters on his campaign plane, Rubio sounded confident about his campaign's financial outlook.
"Like every other campaign, we've been spending money, right? But we're in good shape. I mean, our fundraising's done real well, our spending is on a trajectory that's very positive. Money won't be the reason that my campaign will ever end," said Rubio.
Several of Rubio’s major financial backers said the mood among contributors remained upbeat.
“It’s still early,” said Marc Goldman, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based investor. “Marco acknowledged that he didn’t do so great at that debate. But I think he can recover from that, and we’ve got a ways to go.”
Virginia developer Bob Pence said he raised more money for Rubio’s campaign Wednesday than he had in the entire preceding week, both from previous donors and from contributors who had never given before.
“There is the sense that it’s important at this very moment to demonstrate support for him and carry him along even further,” said Pence, adding that he believes some donors who were backing Christie will soon move over to Rubio.
“I’m feeling very good about Sen. Rubio and his prospects going forward,” he added.
Gold reported from Washington.