Business

Former lieutenant governor Healey backs Marco Rubio

Former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.
AP/file 2006
Former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.

Mitt Romney hasn’t made up his mind on whether to endorse Marco Rubio, but his former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, has.

After backing Jeb Bush in the Republican primary, Healey said she is now throwing her support behind the Florida Senator.

“As a native of Florida, I have followed his career with interest for many years,” said Healey in a statement to the Boston Globe. “Marco Rubio has a firm grasp of foreign policy and a long-standing commitment to supporting small business and entrepreneurs. America needs a leader committed to strength abroad and a vibrant innovation economy at home: I believe Marco Rubio is that leader.”

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Healey, who is now president of Babson College in Wellesley, had given $50,000 to a Bush super PAC. Bush, a two-term Florida governor, dropped out of the race on Saturday after a poor showing in the South Carolina primary, a stunning end for a candidate who started last year as the presumed front-runner.

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Healey, in an interview, said Bush supporters like her have been courted by other remaining candidates including Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

“My sense is that a majority of those who have supported Bush may find themselves in the Rubio camp,” said Healey. “There has always been a great deal of respect, admiration and mentorship between Rubio and Bush during their careers. The jousting between the two during the presidential primary was uncharacteristic of their relationship.”

With Trump leading in the polls, that has left Cruz and Rubio fighting for second place. Rubio has yet to win a primary contest, but in recent days has racked up a rash of endorsements from current and former governors, and members of Congress, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has yet to endorse a candidate, despite a weekend report that he was about to back Rubio. Romney did however take a swipe at Trump on Wednesday in a Fox News interview aggressively criticizing the mogul for not releasing his tax returns.

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Healey said she has met Rubio several times and believes both Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders have done well because they are “channeling the anger of the American people.”

“I don’t believe that an angry response is the correct one,” she added. “I believe you need a cooler response.”

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.