Big get for surging Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in Florida: His new state director is Jose Mallea, who helped steer Marco Rubio's come-from-behind victory in the 2010 Senate race.The Miami-based campaign strategist has longstanding ties to powerful Republicans in the state, which will hold one of the nation's earliest primaries on Jan. 31.
Mallea's move is likely to fuel speculation that Rubio will endorse Gingrich, though the freshman senator has said he would stay neutral in the primary. Gingrich and other candidates have dropped his name as a likely running mate.Rubio had an autographed picture of Gingrich on his desk when he served in the Florida Legislature and brought it with him to Washington, Mallea said.
"For those of us who came up in politics in the mid 1990s, he's someone we admired,'' Mallea said. "He's so intelligent on the issues and understands where we need to go as a country.'"