It took just one year for Marco Rubio to go from Beltway darling to “bless his heart.”
Rubio, whom Florida politicos have known for years as ambition in human form, ran audaciously for the United States Senate in 2010, shoving former Republican governor Charlie Crist out of the way and out of the party in the process. He won a 49 percent plurality in a three-way race against Crist and then-Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek to claim the office.
Even as he ran, it was clear to most Florida political watchers that Rubio viewed the Senate as a mere stepping stone to the presidency. He seized the spotlight in the crafting of an immigration reform that was his star turn. He was considered the guy who could sell the bill to the right.
But when he mounted a tour of conservative media outlets to make the pitch, he was roundly rebuffed, including by one of his constituents, Rush Limbaugh of Palm Beach. Rubio quickly abandoned his colleagues, including Arizona Senator John McCain, and disavowed the bill.
Rubio’s flight from immigration reform highlighted one of his less wonderful qualities: his willingness to morph into whatever political form suits his immediate needs. He was anointed by Jeb Bush to become speaker of the Florida House, and shoved aside his best friend at the time, speaker aspirant Gaston Cantens, to get there, figuring there was room for only one Cuban-American leader. He became a tea partier when being a tea partier was the path to Senate power; and ditched the movement soon thereafter. He’s been a neoconservative acolyte of Jeb Bush, and he’s been Bush’s tormentor, stepping in front of him in line during what friends of Jeb saw as his last chance to be president. In the process, he betrayed a man who throughout his political career had been both benefactor and de facto family.
Now, Rubio is mounting his latest reinvention; going from “never going to run for re-election” to the Senate, to maybe, to “yes.” Rubio watchers in Florida say the decision has to do with two things: the beseeching of D.C. Republicans like Mitch McConnell, who see Rubio as the party’s best chance of holding onto the seat in a tough election cycle; and Rubio’s desire to run for president again in 2020—something he believes he can best do from a Senate perch.
But getting back in involves real risks for Rubio.
The first risk: his reputation. Rubio may have cleared the field of his most prominent Republican competitors, but among those remaining is Carlos Beruff, a self-funding developer who has made it clear he is willing to put $10 to $15 million into the race on top of the $4 million he’s already spent. And Beruff is already hitting Rubio hard on the question of whether he’ll vow to serve out his full term if reelected rather than running for president and using the Senate as a stepping stone again. That’s a promise it seems unlikely Rubio can make honestly, and he has already refused to be pinned down on the matter when asked by reporters.
That future prospect is where the second risk to Rubio lies. If he gets back in and loses in a primary, particularly to a virtual unknown like Beruff, he will be humiliated. If he survives the primary but loses in November (Rep. Patrick Murphy currently leads the Democratic pack), he will be equally so. It’s one thing to cede a Senate seat willingly. Losing it would make it very difficult to run for president, given the spotlight that will be on the Florida race. Rubio seemed to seek some assurances from national conservatives this week, reportedly lobbying former rival Ted Cruz and conservative stalwart Mike Lee to essentially draft him publicly to run, to put a movement sheen on it. Both men declined.
Democrats have vowed to make life difficult for Rubio. . Murphy reacted to the announcement that Rubio was “in” with an email blast, saying the famously unhappy Senate warrior “abandoned his constituents, and now he’s treating them like a consolation prize.” Super PACS supporting Democrats have pledged to spend at least $10 million in the effort to unseat him. And Democrats could have a good shot, if Hillary Clinton beats Trump in Florida and has coattails, and if straight-laced, seemingly incorruptible Murphy is the Democratic Senate candidate.
Still, there is upside for Rubio. He is leading in the current Quinnipiac poll against either Murphy or fiery Rep. Alan Grayson. He will no doubt have flush campaign coffers, between longtime patrons like former Philadelphia Eagles owner and car magnate Norman Braman, who is said to have poured more than $10 million in the super PACs supporting Rubio’s presidential bid, and the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. But the campaign is likely to feature a rehash of his worst moments of the past few years: his immigration reversal; his disastrous “tiny bottle” moment as he delivered the State of the Union rebuttal in 2013; his failure to show up for work; his “robot Rubio” shellacking at the hands of Chris Christie during the GOP debates; his rather self-serving reaction to Orlando, which he used as the excuse for reconsidering quitting the Senate and which has drawn fire from LGBT rights groups; and his spectacular primary defeat at Trump’s hands.
There’s one more risk Rubio faces: his long-term brand.
As a Senate candidate, Rubio will be under tremendous pressure to make good on his vow to support Trump as the Republican nominee. This on top of the spectacle of someone who spent the waning days of his presidential bid playing the dozens with the man who reduced him to “Little Marco” oddly saying he would be “honored” to help Trump in any way.
As the rare nationally known Hispanic Republican, and with the presidential candidate in a desperate search for political stars to decorate his potentially B-list-laden Cleveland convention, Team Trump will surely deploy Rubio liberally, to refute the notion of Trump’s anti-Hispanic racism. But for Rubio, a primetime speaking slot in Cleveland could be more curse than blessing. He risks becoming Trump’s Hispanic human shield; a prospect other Latino politicians, like spurned New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, will be able to avoid, even if they are dragooned into attendance in Cleveland.
For so many reasons, a Rubio Senate run seems fraught with career-defining peril. But it’s peril he’s apparently prepared to face, if it means another shot at the White House.
By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, June 22, 2016
Tuesday night Donald Trump’s main ally in the Republican primary campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio, finally called it quits. He was praised by many Republican pundits, as he typically is, for some of the aspirational language he used in his non-victory speech, though most of those pundits shied away from a fair assessment of Rubio’s behavior during this presidential campaign season.
Here is such an assessment: Rubio ran on a promise of being the candidate of the future with a bold, optimistic platform, but he never delivered on that promise. In the process, he did perhaps irreparable harm to his party and to the country.
First, he ended the campaign season with a platform that can only be characterized as far-right. Sure, Rubio started his campaign with a number of extreme views – for example, he wanted the state to force rape victims to give birth to the child of their rapists and incest victims to give birth to the child of their fathers, while plotting to forcefully disband hundreds of thousands of same-sex marriages.
But it was only a year ago that the senator proposed a tax plan, with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, that would raise taxes on millions of people in the middle class. By now, his proclaimed tax reform preference involves raising the debt-to-GDP ratio to 150 percent, while lowering Warren Buffett’s tax rate to zero. And that’s not all: He has also gone from supporting amnesty to wanting to deport children who have spent practically their entire life in the U.S., as well as supporting the deportation of the parents of U.S. citizens. In addition, he has proposed closing down not just mosques but also cafes and the like where Muslims may gather.
Now, some of Rubio’s supporters will claim that he does not actually believe in those things and he was just trying to out-Trump Trump, but by endorsing them he made them more respectable.
Second, he has done more than perhaps anyone but Trump to coarsen public debate. It was Rubio, after all, who introduced – and I can’t believe I’m writing this – discussions of penis size to the presidential race.
Third, he has done more than perhaps even Jeb Bush and his donors to help Trump win the Republican nomination in simple delegate terms.
Instead of dropping out after losing in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada (where he used to live!), Rubio set a target of losing the first 25 or so states. He roughly succeeded in losing those states, but in the process he helped Trump amass a significant delegate lead over his most serious opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz. He did this not only by winning delegates himself here and there, but perhaps most harmfully in states like Idaho and Texas by denying Cruz outright majorities that would have made those states winner-take-all. In those two states alone, Trump added 120 delegates to his lead. It is extremely likely that without Rubio, Cruz would have been the Republican front-runner going into this week, thereby fundamentally transforming the dynamics of the race.
Perhaps the senator will yet redeem himself. His almost-tearful press conference this weekend indicated that he might try – but for now, the damage he has done is tremendous.
By: Stan Veuger, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, March 16, 2016
“The Tragedy Of Marco Rubio — And The Republican Party”: The Entire Story Of This Period In The History Of The GOP
Marco Rubio’s campaign for president isn’t dead yet, but it’s awfully close. In last night’s primaries he didn’t just do poorly — coming in a distant third place in Idaho and Hawaii, and an even worse fourth place in Michigan and Mississippi — he also failed to win a single delegate in any of the four states.
Today, Carly Fiorina endorsed Ted Cruz, making it sound as if there is no other alternative choice if Donald Trump is to be beaten. Rubio’s odds of becoming president in 2016 are now about the same as the odds I have of replacing Steph Curry in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup. Could it happen? Technically, yes; there’s certainly no law against it. But it’s unlikely.
Rubio’s fall is more than just the story of a promising politician who failed to do as well as he (and many others) hoped. In fact, it’s the entire story of this period in the history of the Republican Party, distilled down to a single politician.
It might be hard to remember now, at a time when so many of those in the Republican establishment support Rubio, but when he first got elected to the Senate in 2010, he was a rebel and a Tea Party darling. He took on then-governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for a Senate seat from Florida, moving so far ahead of him in the polls that Crist dropped out and became an independent. When he got to the Senate, that establishment embraced him — just as they embraced the Tea Party as a whole, choosing to feed the beast and make it even more vicious, not realizing that one day it would turn on them.
The GOP saw its future in Rubio. Young, smart, articulate, Hispanic, he was a new kind of Republican who could sell conservatism to a changing America. The buzz around Rubio intensified after the party lost another election behind another rich older white guy in 2012. At the beginning of 2013, Time magazine put him on its cover over the headline “The Republican Savior.” The accompanying article is extraordinary to read, given where Rubio is today. Here’s an excerpt:
Now, just two years after he arrived in Washington, the charismatic conservative often hailed as the Tea Party’s answer to Barack Obama has emerged as the most influential voice in the national debate over immigration reform. He’s also the key player in his party’s efforts to make up to Hispanic voters after a disastrous 2012 campaign featuring Republican candidates who proposed electric fences and alligators along the southern border, as well as Mitt Romney’s suggestion of “self-deportation” for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. GOP leaders know they have a demographic problem. They hope Rubio can help provide the solution, which is why they’ve chosen him to deliver the response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12 — in English and Spanish.
Party leaders agreed that unless Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform, they could never convince Hispanics of their good faith. For Rubio, being part of the “Gang of 8″ was an opportunity to show he could be a real legislator and accomplish something important for the country and his party. That summer, the group passed its bill through the Senate, then sent it to the House, where it died.
And what was supposed to be a triumph for Rubio turned into a nightmare. Conservative talk radio declared him a traitor — both for advocating comprehensive reform that included a path to citizenship (albeit a long one) for undocumented immigrants, and for the very fact of working with Democrats on something, and he was all but excommunicated from the Tea Party. Both he and the GOP establishment realized that what was good for the party as a whole wasn’t necessarily what individual elected officials (particularly in the House) wanted or could tolerate. And they came to appreciate the full measure of the base’s anger at immigrants. It turned out that rank-and-file Republicans not only didn’t want comprehensive reform, they wanted just the opposite: build walls, crack down, throw the foreigners out. Forget about “reaching out” to minority groups — this party is whiter than ever.
So when Rubio decided to run for president, he made contempt for President Obama one of the themes of his campaign. Everywhere he went, he talked about Obama’s villainy. In every debate, Rubio would answer any question by immediately launching a blistering criticism of Obama, whether the question had anything to do with him or not. That “robotic” moment where he kept repeating himself even after Chris Christie mocked him for repeating himself? The message he was trying to communicate (“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing”) was that Obama isn’t just a failure but is intentionally destroying the country.
Yet just mimicking the rhetoric of talk radio wasn’t enough — for Rubio, or for the party itself. He couldn’t escape his brief heresy on “amnesty.” No matter how he tried, he couldn’t be anti-establishment enough. And no argument about how good he looks on paper as a general election candidate would sway voters who want the primaries to be a primal scream of rage against not just Washington and not just Obama but against the Republican Party itself.
Whatever his talents, the party’s golden boy can’t be the vehicle for that rage. Rubio may have many more endorsements than any other candidate — 5 governors, 14 senators, and 48 members of the House — but that probably hurt him as much as helped him, by reinforcing the idea that he’s the one the party leaders want. In the end, the candidate who worked so hard to present himself as serious and knowledgeable was reduced to making fun of the size of another candidate’s hands. Like the party as a whole, he had no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and nothing he tried seemed to work.
To be clear, Republican voters don’t dislike Rubio. In fact, he still gets higher approval ratings than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both of whom are crushing him at the ballot box (see here or here). He’s just not what those voters want right now. He probably would be the most formidable general election candidate. But Republican voters don’t seem to care. If the price of expressing their anger is that the Republican nominee loses in November, they seem okay with that. So as the party gets torn to pieces, the young man in a hurry who was supposed to be its savior is just one more casualty.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016
How’s this for poetic justice? Donald Trump’s favorite scapegoats could end up having the satisfaction of blocking him from the White House.
Latino voters have the potential to form a “big, beautiful wall” between Trump and his goal. If Trump gets the Republican nomination and Hispanics are provoked into voting in numbers that more nearly approach their percentage of the population — and if, as polls suggest, they vote overwhelmingly against Trump — it is hard to see how the bombastic billionaire could win.
Such an outcome would serve Trump right. Unfortunately for the GOP, it would also threaten to make Latinos a reliable and perhaps monolithic voting bloc for the Democratic Party, just as African Americans have been since the 1960s. If this were to happen, simple arithmetic would make it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the White House.
In 2012, Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote; his policy of “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants is believed to have contributed to this poor showing. After Romney’s defeat, a GOP postmortem called on the party to regain its footing with the nation’s largest minority group. “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the report said.
This never happened. A group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight, including Marco Rubio, managed to win passage of a reform bill, but House Republicans refused even to consider the legislation. It seemed the immigration issue would once again be a liability for the GOP in the presidential contest.
Then along came Trump, who opened his campaign by charging that immigrants coming from Mexico were criminals and rapists — and promising to build a wall along the border to keep them out. As for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, Trump’s solution is not self-deportation but rather forced deportation: He pledges to round them all up and send them home.
Trump may be all over the map on a host of issues, but xenophobic opposition to Latino immigration has been his North Star. He invites supporters to see their nation under siege from Latinos who allegedly take away jobs, commit crimes and alter traditional American culture. Last year, he criticized campaign rival Jeb Bush — whose wife is from Mexico — for speaking Spanish at a rally. “He should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States,” Trump said.
Trump’s chauvinism has been winning approval among the mostly white, working-class voters who form the core of his support. But there are signs that he may also be animating Latinos — to come out and vote against him.
A poll last month by The Post and Univision showed that just 16 percent of Latino voters had a favorable view of Trump, as opposed to 80 percent who view him unfavorably. The remaining GOP candidates — Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich — all do considerably better. But no Republican does nearly as well as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are seen favorably by healthy majorities.
In a hypothetical matchup, according to the poll, Clinton would beat Trump among Latino voters by 73 percent to 16 percent. Assuming those who had no opinion went equally for the two candidates, Clinton’s share of the Latino vote would approach 80 percent. Swing states with large Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado would effectively be off the table for the GOP.
Moreover, the sheer number of Latino voters will almost surely increase across the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, the 23.3 million Hispanics who were eligible to vote in 2012 will have grown to 27.3 million by Election Day, mostly from young citizens who turn 18. The specter of a Trump presidency is giving urgency to widespread voter-registration drives.
Trump’s claim that he “won” among Hispanic voters in Nevada is based on entrance polling at the party caucuses, but the sample was so small as to be virtually meaningless. More pertinent is that more than twice as many Hispanics participated in the Democratic caucuses as in the Republican ones.
Assuming Trump wins the nomination, where does this leave him? If Latinos come out to vote against him in greater-than-usual numbers, he would have to win what looks like an impossibly high percentage of the white vote to be competitive. Even if the Latino vote just grows proportionally with population, he would have a hard time winning states that GOP presidential candidates can’t afford to lose.
He may wish he could say “I’m sorry” in Spanish.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016
“The Establishment Gets What It Deserves”: Republicans Stopped Producing Moderates And Wound Up With Trump
The Republican establishment, the one we hear so much about: That wall is crumbling in plain sight.
You may ask how I know this. Once the media and powers that be chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the last best hope to slow Donald Trump’s rise to the nomination on Super Tuesday, things felt surreal. If that’s true, then the establishment deserves to lose. It is sending too few moderate Republicans to Congress.
From what I’ve seen in the Senate, Rubio does not have the chops to challenge Trump, despite their nasty verbal brawling. In his 40s, Rubio is a slight figure in the Senate, when he is actually there. A bit vacuous, he’s what they call a showhorse, not a workhorse. Few bills bear his name. He balked at his big chance to take part in actually passing legislation, a bipartisan immigration bill that failed in 2013 in a close call.
Rubio comes from the Cuban-American community in Miami and rose on the financial wings of a wealthy car dealer. His base is hard-right, especially bitter when it comes to Fidel Castro and Cuba. Rubio held up an administration diplomatic appointment because the woman had worked on normalizing relations with Cuba. The exiled generation that raised Rubio – and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, roughly the same age – vowed to never forget nor forgive the revolution. They tend to have a dark outlook on foreign policy. At home, Rubio is equally stark, all for requiring – forcing – girls and women victimized by rape or incest (or both) to carry their pregnancies to term. I don’t think he will sell well outside the South.
It’s a lot for the Republican establishment to take in a week. First there was Jeb Bush’s unimaginable fall from tall heights of family and fortune. He had to leave the party early after a fatal fourth finish in South Carolina. It was fun to watch him unwind. The pundits said the environment wasn’t right for Jeb Bush this cycle. The truth is, he was a terribly flat candidate, whatever the cycle. He could not spin anything to his advantage. And it is not as if there is anything noble about his family tree. The Bushes play rough to win, as his father and brother did in their presidential campaigns; just remember the Willie Horton ads against Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Swift Boat campaign wielded against Sen. John Kerry in 2004
So it likely comes down to Trump vs. Rubio. Let’s not forget Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are resilient, stubborn candidates. Cruz is wicked smart – both in equal measure – and Kasich comes across as the reasonable man in this field. Still, it’s a safe bet Trump will take the party on a forced march to the nomination like General Sherman to the sea in the Civil War. He’s just the bracing medicine the formerly grand old party needs to see what it has become.
And it wasn’t overnight. It just seems that way with Bush’s meteoric fall from grace. Observers say Trump will set the party back for years if he becomes the standard-bearer. Let it be. In the meantime, the Republican Party has some serious soul-searching to do.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 29, 2016