While much of the Washington news media were fawning over Sen. Marco Rubio's knowledge of rap music (Tupac over Biggie, he says), his remarks questioning global warming at an event Tuesday drew more serious discussion.
"First of all, the climate is always changing. That's not the fundamental question," Rubio said when asked at a BuzzFeed event if global warming is a threat to Florida. "The fundamental question is whether man-made activity is what's contributing most to it. I understand that people say there is a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I've actually seen reasonable debate on that principle."
Rubio, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, went on to question if government could do anything to address the issue, whether it would be too costly or ineffective if other countries do not do the same.
"The United States is a country; it's not a planet," he said.
Phil Plait, an astronomer and author, rebutted Rubio in Slate, saying there is no debate among the scientific community. "The truth is, our poles are melting. Nine of the hottest years on record have been in the past decade. Even a study funded by the oil magnate Koch Brothers found the Earth is warming up," he wrote.
"So, oddly enough, I take exception to what Senator Rubio said. There is no longer reasonable debate. All we see is denial. And the time for debate is long since past anyway; the science is in, and it's sound science. I'm tired of politicians equivocating and hemming and hawing about global warming. We need to stop fiddling while the world burns, and start putting out this fire."
Studies have shown global warming would indeed threaten Florida, with rising sea levels bringing flooding, that could cause widespread property damage, saltwater intrusion and other problems.
Under current projections, the Atlantic Ocean would swallow much of the Florida Keys in 100 years, the Miami Herald reported last year, citing a scientific study. Miami-Dade would become a chain of islands.
Rubio, who recently declined to GQ to say how old the Earth is — "I'm not a scientist, man" — has taken on stances that find a comfortable home in his party.
But on climate change, as with other issues, he was once more open to science. During his time in the Florida House, he embraced a plan to develop guidelines to limit carbon emissions and suggested Florida could be a leader in developing alternative technologies.
Sensitive cover boy
Landing on the cover of Time, as Rubio did last week, seems like a sweet addition to his portfolio. But Rubio is sensitive to the perception he's the chosen one — "The Republican Savior," as the cover headline stated.
He quickly tweeted Thursday, "There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus." That brought a round of respect and mockery.
On Friday, Rubio's team questioned why Time put him on the cover (spokesman Alex Conant suggested a "Blood for Oil" story instead) and pointed to a "better" headline used for international editions — "Marco Rubio & The Next America."
Whether he has a point or is over-sensitive, the reaction is an insight into how careful Rubio manages his image.
Scott and Medicaid
Florida Gov. Rick Scott budgeted no money for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but if state lawmakers embrace it and Scott opposes them, he won't necessarily be following GOP orthodoxy.
So far, six Republican governors — including conservatives Jan Brewer in Arizona, Rick Snyder in Michigan and John Kasich of Ohio — have announced they intend to expand Medicaid in their states.
"This reform not only helps improve the health of vulnerable Ohioans and frees up local funds for better mental health and addiction services, but it also helps prevent increases to health care premiums and potentially devastating impacts to local hospitals," Kasich announced last week.
But Scott's gubernatorial idol is Rick Perry of Texas, who has been crystal clear about his opposition.
"The bottom line here is that Medicaid is a failed program," Perry told Fox News last year. "To expand this program is not unlike adding a thousand people to the Titanic."
Spicy governor's race
What could make the 2014 campaign more sensational than a contest between Gov. Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist? Toss in notorious political bad boy Roger Stone as the Libertarian Party nominee. Stone, a legendary bare-knuckles political operator from Miami who sports a Richard Nixon tattoo on his back, last week floated the notion of running.
"I kind of like Rick Scott because I think he's trying to do the right things and I think he's fundamentally a conservative Republican. I probably really would go after Charlie Crist on his many policy switches," said Stone, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, who supported Crist's 2006 campaign for governor.
He harbors no illusions about winning — "I'm hardly the ideal candidate given my, shall we say, colorful history" — but likes the idea of elevating some pet issues such as legalizing marijuana. In fact, he said if he runs he would also push for a constitutional amendment legalizing weed in Florida and formally announce his candidacy at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 at the annual Hempfest at Florida State University.
That would be April 20 of 2014, however. Stone is in no rush to make a decision and currently is focused on the New York City mayoral campaign of Kristin Davis, the former "Manhattan Madam" who ran the call girl service that sunk the political career of Eliot Spitzer.