Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio was dropping signs of a run well before Orlando

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to reporters June 3 in Doral as he urges Congress to pass funding to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Rubio is asking his fellow politicians to approve the $1.9 billion in funding that has been proposed by President Obama.

[Getty Images]

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to reporters June 3 in Doral as he urges Congress to pass funding to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Rubio is asking his fellow politicians to approve the $1.9 billion in funding that has been proposed by President Obama.



“I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”

Precisely a month ago today, Sen. Marco Rubio wrote that on Twitter, one in a burst of sarcastic missives about speculation over his future.

On Wednesday, Rubio disclosed he’s reconsidering private citizenship. He may now run for a second term, citing the Orlando massacre and the urging of his friend, Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

But anyone who has observed Rubio since he left the presidential campaign trail could see that a reversal was possible a while ago.

Start with this Rubio tweet from last month: “Flashback to another article quoting a ‘longtime friend’ saying I ‘hate’ Senate. Words I have NEVER said to anyone.”

Rubio began working that argument into interviews. He never publicly said “hate,” but dissatisfaction with the Senate was part of his justification for running for president.

"I have missed votes this year," he said in a January town hall in Iowa. "You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda. Only a president can set the agenda," he said. "We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen."

Wednesday Rubio told reporters, “I’ve enjoyed my service here a lot.”

Knocked by Jeb Bush and others for abandoning his job to run for president, post-campaign Rubio has been ubiquitous in Florida. He’s impressed many and generated favorable news coverage. He hasn’t missed votes. But the volume and visibility of his actions had many wondering, too.

After vowing to do whatever to defeat “con man” Trump, Rubio warmed to him as the nominee, a display of party loyalty — and a marker against a future (?) rival, Hillary Clinton.

There were small signs, too: A recently revamped Senate website put a focus on Florida, down to the orange icon filling the O in Rubio. He started highlighting constituent work again.

Along came the draft Marco movement, a scripted campaign led by Mitch McConnell that had GOP officials begging Rubio to run again. No less than the party’s control of the Senate is at stake, they said, Trump included.

That stakes are high but it also set the conditions for a Rubio flip-flop well before Orlando.

While the senator’s office maintained the “private citizen” talk as recently as week, the potential candidate was wiggling.

“Maybe,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper, I’d run again if my friend weren’t in the race. Lt. Gov Lopez-Cantera did not completely cave on Wednesday — saying he’d remain in the race if Rubio chooses not to join — but his lackluster campaign has led to questions.

Rubio and his team will dismiss all this as the kind of speculation he ridiculed in those tweets. But it’s not just reporters. Republicans and Democrats alike do not consider Orlando, however affecting, the sole catalyst.

Mike Fasano, a former Rubio ally in the state House turn critic, predicted a year ago on public television that Rubio would run again if his presidential campaign faltered.

The choreography, Fasano said on Wednesday, has “been going on since day one if he couldn't win the nomination before the convention.

“There's no problem with him running for re-election. He has a great chance getting re-elected,” Fasano said. “Marco, just be honest with the voters. This is a perfect example of why all voters are disgusted and distrustful with D.C.”

Rubio, 45, said he’ll ponder the decision this weekend and there’s still a chance he may not run. People around him keep saying how he wants to earn more money and pay more attention to his family. His wife seems no fan of politics.

He would be an instant favorite in the primary. A general election, however, presents a unique challenge because Florida Democrats turn out voters in presidential years and this one features the unpredictable Trump.

Those missed votes and attention away from Florida — not to mention the repeated promise not to run again — will be used against him. Carlos Beruff on Wednesday summoned 2010, when Washington elites handpicked Charlie Crist over Rubio.

“The people of Florida have made one thing abundantly clear: they value real world experience more than political experience,” Beruff’s spokesman said. “They’re sick of career politicians and power-brokers in Washington who care about one thing: holding on to power. But the voters of Florida will not obey them. They don’t get to pick our candidates.”

Voters too could be wary of history repeating. If Trump loses to Clinton, how soon would Sen. Rubio be preparing his next presidential campaign?

[Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2016 11:36am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours