Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio essentially won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in April when Gov. Charlie Crist left the political party to run as an independent. With no other credible Republican candidate on the Aug. 24 ballot, the Times recommends Rubio.
With his big lead in opinion polls and impressive fundraising, the former Miami legislator built an early lead that Crist probably would have been unable to overcome in the primary. Rubio has tapped into the tea party movement and won support from other conservative voters who are disenchanted with the Obama administration and oppose health care reform, the federal stimulus money and virtually every other progressive idea.
Rubio, 39, served eight years in the state House and quickly rose to positions of leadership. His effort to gather 100 ideas from the public and his heavy-handed push to enact many of them into law as speaker proved to be an effective gimmick. He is a charismatic speaker with a disarming smile. His success as a former legislator in pushing a popular incumbent governor out of the primary is a testament to his appeal among the state's most conservative voters.
To his credit, Rubio has dared to suggest it is time to consider raising the retirement age for Social Security to help secure the future of the entitlement program. That is a pragmatic approach that neither Crist nor the main Democratic candidates have been willing to embrace. But Rubio's positions on the federal deficit, taxes, health care and many other issues are radically conservative and do not reflect the views of mainstream voters.
There will be plenty of time in the general election to compare Rubio's extremism with the more reasonable positions held by Crist and the Democratic nominee. At this point, he is the only viable choice for Republicans. In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the Times recommends Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio for Republicans