BOSTON >> The Lakeville Republican who appears poised to become the next GOP national committeewoman from Massachusetts said Thursday she has doubts about the ability of the man she endorsed for president — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — to overcome Donald Trump and others for the nomination.
Rep. Keiko Orrall, who is capitalizing on support from Gov. Charlie Baker to climb the ladder of state Republican politics, said Rubio's campaign "has been a bit rocky" as the Florida senator has struggled to present himself as the establishment alternative to the front-running Trump.
"I don't know how far he's going to be able to go," Orrall told the News Service ahead of next Tuesday's Florida primary, which could be do-or-die for Rubio in his home state. The newest poll from Florida conducted by Suffolk University this week showed Rubio in second place trailing Trump by nine points with 27 percent to Trump's 36 percent.
But unlike Baker who has said he will not support Trump should he win the GOP nomination in July, Orrall said she could vote for the New York businessman.
"I'm going to be supporting the Republican in November," Orrall said. "I think we need to let the people's vote count."
With her announcement on Wednesday of public support from a majority of the 80-member Republican State Committee, Orrall appears to have the votes needed to oust conservative activist Chanel Prunier from her post as national committeewoman from Massachusetts.
A win would secure Orrall an automatic trip to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer as a delegate.
Orrall, serving in her fifth year in the House of Representatives, opened her challenge to Prunier with the backing of Gov. Baker, who has moved to put his own stamp on the party.
Fifty-two of the 74 candidates the governor supported in state committee races decided last Tuesday won, and all 41 of the committee members publicly backing Orrall are part of the Baker slate.
"I think it's a great opportunity for someone to step in to grow and unify our party and that's where... I think we've seen the divisiveness that's been happening the past few months and we need to have a different direction, a positive direction," Orrall said.
In a statement posted to the Republican blog Red Mass Group by committee member Brock Cordeiro, Orrall said she would "continue to work to earn every committee member's vote ahead of the election on April 5."
Prunier, a Shrewsbury activist who has held the national committee post since 2013, said this week she was disappointed by Baker's support for a challenger after she backed his 2014 campaign for governor when other conservatives were gravitating toward his primary opponent Mark Fisher.
Noting the fallout with some Republican grassroots activists after Baker's involvement in the state committee campaigns, Prunier said she believed she could be the person to unite both factions of the party.
Orrall said she was "grateful" for the support Prunier gave her in her first race for state representative in a 2011 special election, but called the party contest for a slot on the national committee an election "about a new day in the Republican party."
"She's been active in the party and helping people get elected. I believe that I bring a new set of skills, a better set of skills and a uniqueness to the position that is desperately needed at this time to grow and unify our party," Orrall said.
Asked to elaborate, Orrall said, "I have legislative skills, know what it's like to be an elected. I think we need to have a positive brand of Republicanism, and I think that we're seeing that with the Baker-Polito administration where we are getting things done with good ideas."
National committeeman Ron Kaufman, a former senior advisor to Mitt Romney and White House aide to President George H.W. Bush, is also up for re-election by the party, and has announced the public support of 48 committee members. Baker is also backing Kaufman's re-election.