[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/08/art.pence0208.gi.jpg caption="House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence is endorsing Marco Rubio, who is facing off against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the state's GOP senatorial primary."]
Washington (CNN) – Marco Rubio, a one-time long shot candidate in Florida's Republican senatorial primary, is getting a big boost from a GOP House leader.
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence is endorsing Rubio, the Florida Republican's campaign announced Monday.
"I am proud to endorse Marco Rubio for the United States Senate," the Indiana Republican said in a statement released by the Rubio campaign. "Marco Rubio's faith in free markets, limited government and traditional moral values make him the right choice for Republicans in this race."
Rubio is set to face off against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was once considered the favorite in this GOP primary. Rubio's candidacy, in part, has been fueled by conservatives including those who align themselves with the Tea Party movement.
A Quinnipiac University survey released late last month showed that Rubio, a former Florida House Speaker, led Crist 47 percent to 44 percent in a GOP primary match up. Rubio's 3-point advantage was within the poll's sampling error. But it still showed a major shift from last year, when Crist led Rubio by 15 points in October, 29 points in August, and 31 points in June, according to Quinnipiac surveys.
The poll indicated that Rubio tops Crist when it comes to trust, values, and conservative credentials.
Fundraising numbers released by both campaigns in late January showed Crist narrowly outraised Rubio in the prior three months. But Crist had a wide lead over Rubio when it came to campaign cash on hand.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.