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Rubio gets Allen endorsement, Trump backers get court setback

Hours before hitting the presidential debate stage in Charleston, South Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio scored the endorsement of onetime Republican heavyweight George Allen.

Allen, a former Virginia governor and U.S. senator, endorsed Rubio during an appearance on Fox Business, which is hosting Thursday night's debate.

Allen said he watched all the candidates closely and decided the freshman senator from Florida is the candidate "who can unite Republicans and get independents and young people" behind his campaign.

"My wife Susan and I are proud and enthusiastic in supporting Marco Rubio," Allen said. "I think [Rubio] is a next-generation conservative leader that really can get people inspired by his campaign."

Allen's endorsement comes on the same day Federal District Court Judge Hannah Lauck denied a request for a preliminary injunction from three Virginia supporters of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Three African-American pastors filed the lawsuit last week in an effort to block Virginia's State Board of Elections from requiring voters who wish to participate in the March 1 Republican presidential primary to sign a statement of affiliation before being allowed to cast their ballots.

The suit alleges the affiliation pledge, which the Party requested, violates voters' civil rights.

Lauck wrote that the "limited record before the Court does not support the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction against mailing absentee ballots for the Republican Presidential Primary," and further wrote that plaintiffs "did not present sufficient evidence to show" that they would win their case on the merits.

Lauck did write that the plaintiffs raised "matters of significant concern" regarding the State Board's handling of the affiliation pledge, and that "the in-person voting procedure remains in flux to a noteworthy degree."

Lauck will allow a trial on the merits of that portion of the case to go forward.

The State Board of Elections approved the Republican Party of Virginia's request for an affiliation pledge in December. The pledge states: "My signature below indicates that I am a Republican."

The Trump campaign was not a party to the lawsuit, but Trump took to Twitter to blast the pledge in a series of tweets.

In one such missive, Trump wrote: “It begins, Republican Party of Virginia, controlled by the RNC, is working hard to disallow independent, unaffiliated and new voters. BAD!”