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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, with foreign policy at forefront, standing on verge of comeback



Could foreign policy be Sen. Marco Rubio's ticket?

The 42-year-old Florida Republican complained the other day to CNN en Espanol that the U.S. news media was not paying enough attention to Venezuela. Now as the situation in Ukraine -- where more of the news focus has been -- takes a sudden turn, Rubio is getting broader attention.

On Saturday, Meet the Press announced him as a last-minute addition to the Sunday show, and Rubio stirred the pot with  a list of eight ideas on how to "punish" Russia. One called for adding more Russian officials to the Magnitsky list, limiting their travel. "Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here," he wrote in a piece shopped to Politico.

The events in Venezuela and Ukraine have energized Rubio and his team, which have been methodically rebuilding his image since last year's bruising immigration debate. Rubio has turned into critic in chief, missing no opportunity to go after President Obama. But Rubio is a careful politician, knowing when to turn it up (such as his CNN en Espanol interview, when he implied news outlets were commie sympathizers) and when to be more measured. In an interview with the New York Times on Saturday, Rubio distanced himself from Rep. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Senate candidate whom Rubio is backing, who said Russian President Putin has been “emboldened by President Obama’s trembling inaction.”

“In the middle of a crisis such as this, I choose to avoid language like that. I don’t think it’s productive,” Rubio said.

Immigration, the most substantiative domestic policy debate Rubio has directly engaged in, hangs over Congress and the GOP, and could haunt Rubio next year when the presidential race gears up.

But so far, 2014 has treated him well. He is the Buzz Winner of the Week:

After 2010, he was hailed as the GOP savior. After his immigration reform performance of 2013, he looked like a flash in the pan. Now, after high-profile denunciations of repression by Venezuelan leaders, Rubio reminds many opinion leaders on the right that he remains the most inspiring orator among the potential 2016 GOP contenders

[Last modified: Saturday, March 1, 2014 10:27pm]


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