WASHINGTON — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is sending clear signs that he plans to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
The first-term lawmaker joined several other potential candidates at a gathering Sunday in Palm Springs, Calif., organized by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, who have a keen interest in the party’s contenders.
More than 450 allies and donors to the Koch network attended the event, which was scheduled to close with a panel discussion on domestic policy by Rubio and fellow Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.
The organizer, Freedom Partners, is the hub for the political machine backed by wealthy industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Koch group let reporters watch an Internet transmission of the event.
Over the past two days, Rubio met with his main group of 300 supporters on Miami’s South Beach, and he intended to skip the Senate’s schedule to instead attend fund-raisers on the West Coast, Texas, and Illinois during the upcoming week. Future visits are expected to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, states that play a crucial early role in the nominating process.
At the same time, he is trying to keep longtime donors and establishment-minded supporters from shifting loyalties toward another Floridian, former governor Jeb Bush, or the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who is moving toward a third White House bid.
‘‘Jeb Bush is going to be a very credible candidate. I think he’s going to raise a lot of money,’’ Rubio said this past week. ‘‘He’s got an extraordinary network of donors around the country and I know he’ll be a strong candidate if he runs.’’
Rubio would be playing catch-up to Bush and Romney. To help, Rubio has recruited Anna Rogers, the top fund-raiser for American Crossroads, a conservative group backed by Karl Rove.
A campaign will be costly, and any Republican who wants the nomination must consider the preferences of the deep-pocketed Kochs.