[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/16/art.rubiodemint0616.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. DeMint, on the right, is backing Marco Rubio, on the left, in the upcoming Republican primary for Florida's open Senate seat."]Washington (CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's office is downplaying a visit to the Palmetto State by Florida Senate contender Marco Rubio, dismissing the suggestion that the rising GOP star is eyeing an early foothold in a key presidential nominating state.
DeMint and Rubio, close political allies, have launched a new Web site – DeMintRubio.com - and are teaming up for a three-city tour of the state on March 15 to "promote common sense ideas and new conservative leadership."
Wesley Denton, communications director for DeMint, said the trip was added to shore up Rubio's campaign war chest against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who still holds a significant fundraising advantage over his GOP primary opponent.
"Rubio is surging in the polls but Gov. Crist still has a big fundraising advantage," Denton told CNN in an e-mail. "Rubio wasn't the choice of the Washington establishment so he must continue building grassroots support.
"Senator DeMint is committed to helping Marco raise the resources needed to get his message out, which is why the Senator sponsored an online money bomb for Rubio this month and is planning the events in South Carolina in March," Denton said.
DeMint and Rubio will visit Charleston, Columbia and Greenville during the day-long trip, which is being promoted through "Friends of DeMint and Rubio," a joint fundraising committee established on behalf of DeMint's 2010 re-election bid and Rubio's campaign.