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The Republican Party Loves Uber

A smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car

A smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car // Rafiq Maqbool/AP

The Republican Party is in love with Uber, and it wants to publicly display its affection all over the Internet.

The Republican National Committee blasted out an email Wednesday encouraging supporters to sign a new petition in support of "innovative companies like Uber," a popular ride-sharing service that has sprung up in more than 160 cities worldwide, much to the chagrin of more traditional taxi fleets.

"Our cities also deserve innovative, efficient, and safe transportation choices without excessive and intrusive bureaucratic red tape," the email, which doubles as a fundraising pitch, reads. "That's why our cities need innovative solutions like the Uber car service."

Uber allows those in need of a quick lift to use a mobile app to order a driver. It and similar ride-sharing companies have become hugely popular among young urbanites, but they are barred or restricted in a number of cities. Local officials in Seattle passed a law earlier this year limiting the number of alternative taxi drivers allowed on the road at any given time.

Those sort of laws are derided in the email, written by RNC Finance Director Katie Walsh, as attempts "to block Uber from providing services simply because it's cutting into the taxi unions' profits."

Wednesday's petition was assembled without Uber's knowledge, and the company is for now choosing to remain mum about the GOP's sudden embrace, other than to say in a statement: "Everyone loves Uber!"

Boasting the virtues of Uber is nothing new for Republicans. In March, Sen. Marco Rubio gave a speech touting the ride-share company as a disruptive technology that shouldn't be limited by big government.

"What regulation should never be is a way to prevent innovation from happening," Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, said at the time. "It should never allow government ... to protect established incumbents at the expense of an innovative competitor."

Once a loud standard-bearer for immigration reform, Rubio's pivot toward tech issues appears to signal a new strategy within the GOP for how to resonate with young, urban voters.

Rubio's adulation of Uber followed a speech he gave at Google's Washington office, where he noted that ride-sharing restrictions were something young voters cared about.

"For the first time, I see young people that potentially might be friendly to more government involvement in our economy arguing against regulatory impediments to an existing business—in this case, government crowding them out," the freshman senator said.

A Republican National Committee spokeswoman said the petition was created without consulting Rubio, but the party has apparently caught wind of the Florida Republican's tech-first message.

Several large cities across the country are grappling with how, or whether, to change their taxi codes to address the growing encroachment of alternative transportation companies, including Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.

The timing of the petition coincides with the GOP's summer meeting in Chicago, where Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is weighing legislation on his desk that would create statewide restrictions on ride-sharing companies.

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