One of the biggest Republican donors in the country says he's identified five favorites in the 2016 GOP presidential field.
In an interview with USA Today, Charles Koch named Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the stand-outs of the current lineup.
"Those are the ones we have talked to the most and who seem to be the possible leaders," Koch said. "What we've told them all is that right now, we're not supporting anyone. ... If they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies ... will benefit them and will benefit all America."
Cruz, Paul, and Rubio have officially jumped into the race, while Walker and Bush have said they will make a final decision soon.
Koch, a billionaire who runs energy and industrial conglomerate Koch Industries with his brother David, said he's prepared to back multiple candidates before the GOP decides on a nominee.
"Only if somebody really stands out from the standpoint of their message and what they would actually do to benefit America and has a chance a decent chance of being elected, only then would we select one over the others," Koch said. "What we expect them to do is to compete on who has a more positive message for America, rather than what's wrong with some other candidate and did he smoke pot when he was 15 or whatever."
The Koch brothers poured millions into the 2012 and 2014 elections on behalf of conservative candidates, pushing a message of small government and low regulation through their network of conservative advocacy groups. The effort has made them perhaps the most sought-after donors in conservative politics, and a frequent target of Democratic attacks.
David Koch, for his part, has sounded particularly keen on Walker's candidacy in recent weeks. He said Monday that the Wisconsin governor could defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by a "wide margin" and called him a "tremendous candidate to be the nominee," according to the New York Observer.