Saturday, April 21, 2018
Opinion

For Jolly, Rubio endorsement not all it's cracked up to be

By DANIEL RUTH

Times Columnist

Meet Florida's most junior United States Sen. Marco Rubio, the political world's version of a walking Bermuda Triangle.

For nothing is destined to disappear faster from the radar screen than a full-throated endorsement from the Little Lord Fauntleroy of the Potomac.

Florida's plebe senator was in Pinellas County a few days ago to endorse Republican congressional candidate David Jolly, who is vying to succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young. And with that, Jolly would have seemed to have locked up the avatar vote.

Of course Florida's apprentice senator did his hustings due diligence on Jolly's behalf as the two men toured a retirement center in Seminole — Barack Obama = Beelzebub and if this Affordable Care Act thing goes on much longer seniors will be reduced to scraping Fancy Feast cans for dinner.

But for sheer political Kabuki theater of the absurd, perhaps nothing quite topped the issue of the candidate and the senator's disagreement on immigration reform. Rubio supports an eventual pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and Jolly does not. However, by the time you get to the end of this sentence, Rubio might well have taken a different view.

In his obligatory fawning over Florida's training-wheels senator, Jolly lathered up his endorser by noting that when it came to immigration reform, "nobody has had more conviction in leading on this issue than Sen. Marco Rubio."

Well, with all due respect to the AARP crowd at the retirement center, what better place to swoon over Marco Rubio's convictions and leadership than before an elderly group of voters, many of whom may be contending with short-term memory loss?

For it was Rubio who was tapped by Senate leadership to be the go-to guy on comprehensive immigration reform, only to eventually run away from his own immigration bill once the tea party turned up the political heat under his presidential ambitions.

Conviction? Leadership? When it comes to stepping up to confront tough issues, Marco Rubio treats his Senate perch as if it were the witness protection program. Sheesh, Rubio, R-Boo!, won't even admit whether he ever smoked a joint.

Rubio was an early champion of combating human trafficking and then said precious little about it. The good news is that at least he was against it.

The same was true with the effort to delay draconian hikes in federal flood insurance rates, no small issue to Floridians in general and Pinellas County residents in particular. Rubio joined Florida's senior Sen. Bill Nelson in voting to forestall the rise in flood insurance, but he was hardly the loudest voice in the room.

As a practical matter, having a U.S. senator, even one who is a virtual hologram of a pol, offer an endorsement in a very competitive congressional race against Democratic Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby is better than not having Rubio's public support.

It's not too late. Let us not forget David Jolly was a longtime disciple of Bill Young, a wily, savvy politician who survived four decades in Washington's corridors of power by deftly understanding how to wield his influence.

This would probably be a bit unorthodox, but if Marco Rubio truly wants to help Jolly get elected, he could probably seal the deal by delivering an unambiguous, rousing endorsement of Alex Sink. What better way to assure that with Rubio's imprimatur, Alex Sink would never be seen or heard from again?

Daniel Ruth can be reached at [email protected]

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