Marco Rubio’s national political career ascended thanks to the Tea Party and unsettled mood in the GOP following the George W. Bush Presidency. This came after a career in the relatively low-caliber world of the Florida Legislature and Miami-Dade County which was forged as the Tampa Bay Times Alex Leary demonstrated in vivid detail via selling out allies and betraying friends. Rubio’s perceived disloyalty among many Florida Republicans to Jeb Bush, considered by many his political mentor was just the latest in a list of betrayals from a man who thought he was to be President but in reality is lucky to have gotten as far as he has.
Senator Rubio’s greatest campaign tool were uncompromising and over-the-top demagogic attacks on the sitting President. Attacking President Obama from everything from “lacking class” to ” dividing Americans by class, gender and race,” and “deliberately weakening America.” This was straight from the Tea Party playbook which had capitulated Rubio into the US Senate in 2010.
Two elements really undermined Rubio.
1- Once unleashing the angry dogs in the GOP electorate he did with his over-the-top and dangerous rhetoric he became a target of those angry dogs who were being wound up by Donald Trump, an authoritarian demagogue who connects with people better than Rubio. The Senator’s hits on Obama and has attempts at subtle race-baiting led Trump to be more direct, overt and to the point on these matters thus taking the oxygen out of Rubio’s campaign.
2- Rubio’s decision to run for President against Jeb Bush divided Florida Republicans. The vast majority of leaders in the party stuck with Bush. The GOP after all has traditionally been a hierarchal party and it was perceived by many in our state to be Jeb Bush’s turn not that of the relatively young Rubio. Once Bush was torpedoed most leading Florida Republicans either gave tepid support to Rubio or even sat it out entirely. Included in that later list was perhaps the most prominent non-officeholding Republican in the state in terms of national politics -former RPOF and current American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas.
Cardenas not surprisingly backed Bush but stunningly declined to endorse Rubio after the former Florida Governor dropped out of the race four weeks ago. He was far from the only Florida Republican who felt Rubio had broken faith with his mentor and broken an unwritten covenant in GOP circles. With Rubio’s entire candidacy hinging on stopping Trump in Florida, his perceived lack of loyalty certainly didn’t help encourage Republicans who could make a difference to circle the wagons for him.
To rehabilitate himself, Rubio is probably going to need to change his tenor and show more loyalty to the Republicans that matter in Florida.