FLORIDA — Much of the national media appears to be in love with Florida’s junior senator—Republican Marco Rubio. Back on March 23, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote about potential vice-presidential running mates for Republican nominee Mitt Romney and offered this gushing assessment:
The case for Rubio is simple and close to conclusive. He’s Hispanic, giving the GOP an opportunity to reestablish some sort of foothold in that electorally critical community. He’s from Florida, a major swing state. He’s a tea party favorite thanks to destruction of moderate Governor Charlie Crist in a Senate primary in 2010. And, he’s young; at 42 years old, Rubio is 23 years Romney’s junior. Rubio’s not perfect—we hear whispers that his time in the state legislature could be mined by a good opposition researcher—but he’s a clear number one choice in our Line.
Cillizza offered little that was new with this. He accepts the notion that some Hispanics will swoon just because Rubio is on the ticket. He is enamored by the fact that Rubio is young. (And note that Rubio is even younger than Cillizza thinks; he is 40, turning 41 on May 28.)
Cillizza also joins the chorus of those who believe Rubio could help Romney win Florida. Perhaps, but I suggest he read an impressive April analysis by Nate Silver of The New York Times, who concludes that running mates may have little impact on winning their home state. (Also, we humbly suggest that if there is information that could “be mined by a good opposition researcher” about Rubio’s state legislative record, perhaps the Post might want to put on its miner’s helmet.)
When Rubio gave a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution, The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung both fawned over Rubio and backhanded the GOP: Rubio, she wrote, “took another step onto the national stage Wednesday with a foreign policy speech that positioned him squarely in the middle between a dying breed of GOP moderates and his partisan brethren who have condemned President Obama as an international weakling.”
DeYoung offered no quotes from members of the “dying breed” or the “partisan brethren.” And had she talked to at least a few members of the “partisan brethren,” DeYoung may have discovered, as Politico did here that some foreign policy conservatives were unhappy with Rubio’s speech.
The Rubio romance has a history. Two days after Rubio won the 2010 election, Gary Andres, who then worked for the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, wrote this for National Review Online:
Hero—Marco Rubio. He was in a tough three-way race. He didn’t sacrifice principle. He ran as a solid conservative. Now, as a newly elected senator from a large swing state, he can help the GOP grow its appeal to Hispanic voters nationally. He is the future of the Republican Party.
He was not the first to swoon. But in a short paragraph, Andres captured the coming frenzy. At this point, Rubio had not even been sworn in as a senator. He had yet to cast a vote. What Rubio and his handlers did, was capture the imagination of some senior Republicans and the national media. He made the vice presidential short-list before anyone knew who would be the presidential nominee.
Back in Florida, there has been considerably more skepticism. Florida reporters had been following Rubio closely since 2006, when he became speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. I remember sitting across a table from him shortly after he became Speaker, listening to Rubio speak energetically about his “100 ideas,” which he had put together from conversations with Floridians all over the state.
It was to be his blueprint for his two-year term as speaker. The Capitol Press Corps considered Rubio smooth, glib, and ambitious. They also raised serious questions about his finances.
In 2008, The Miami Herald “discovered he failed to properly disclose a generous home loan from a politically connected bank.” It would be one of many stories about Rubio’s dealings.
In this April story, Herald reporter Marc Caputo offers a good summary of questions that have been raised about Rubio’s conduct and statements.
Caputo begins his story with a decision last week by the Federal Elections Commission to fine Rubio $8,000 because it received
prohibited, excessive and other impermissible contributions totaling $210,173.09. By itself, the fine is a pittance for a campaign that raised about $21 million. The errors appear to be relatively small and largely clerical. Still, it’s sloppy. It’s also a surprise. And it feeds into a broader narrative that Rubio is risky.