My Context Florida colleague Martin Dyckman encourages Republicans who want to stop Donald Trump to vote for Marco Rubio in Florida’s winner-take-all primary on March 15. It’s a shame that Dyckman can’t get more help from Rubio himself.
While stopping Trump is a noble motivation, it probably isn’t sufficient. Voters judging incumbents – and that’s what Rubio is in Florida – want to know what the incumbent has done for them while in office.
In Rubio’s case, that’s close to nothing. In 2010, he was elected to the Senate with almost 49 percent of the vote. Independent Charlie Crist got nearly 30 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek about 20. Republicans liked Rubio because they considered Crist a traitor for literally embracing President Barack Obama’s stimulus. Meek was the spoiler who ensured Rubio’s victory.
Florida’s important Hispanic voters saw Rubio as one of their own.
But Rubio has betrayed Florida’s Hispanic voters by renouncing immigration reform. This might not hurt him among Cuban-Americans, many of whom still view the prospect of his potential elevation to the White House as a source of pride.
But other Florida Hispanics, like those nationwide, can view Rubio’s new hostility to immigration reform as proof of his elitism. Cubans, after all, are treated as special cases when it comes to immigration. There is no reason for Mexican-Americans and other Latinos to look on Rubio with favor.
Then, of course, there is Rubio’s infamously bad voting record in the U.S. Senate. While many, many of Donald Trump’s assertions are lies, he was correct, according to Politifact, when he said during a recent debate that, “This guy has the No. 1 absentee record in the U.S. (Senate). He doesn’t show up to vote.”
In the past year, Rubio has missed 41 percent of votes. Ted Cruz has missed 36 percent. Bernie Sanders has missed just 19 percent – although if you restrict the time frame to just 2016, Sanders has the worst attendance record according to The Washington Post.
Why would Floridians flock to vote for a guy who is supposed to represent their interests but doesn’t bother to show up to work?
Granted, conservative Republicans often say they will judge candidates by what they stop rather than by what they enact. But if that’s the yardstick, Rubio falls short as do all GOP incumbents. They haven’t stopped abortion. They haven’t stopped Obamacare. They haven’t deported illegal immigrants. Trump says he will. Perhaps he will fail, but in the eyes of Trump’s supporters, Rubio already has failed.
Rubio does brag that, via a clever amendment to a spending bill, he was able to throw a monkey wrench into Obamacare. His amendment makes it harder for struggling insurance plans to stay in business. Perhaps that will help him in a Republican primary. But by opposing and hampering Obamacare, Rubio is attacking a program that 1.6 million Floridians rely on for health care coverage.
If you look at the bills Rubio actually has passed, the record is not impressive. According to GovTrack, Rubio has sponsored 107 bills. Of those, two passed the Senate. One of them offered a $10 million reward for information on the kidnapping and murder of hostages James Foley and Steve Sotloff. The other was in honor of Vaclav Havel.
Rubio won approval for 13 resolutions for such things as “honoring the lives of the 33 crew members aboard the El Faro,” designating September 2014 as “National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month,” another “recognizing the importance and inspiration of the Hubble Space Telescope” and several congratulating the Miami Heat for winning the NBA championship.
How many Rubio-sponsored bills did the president actually sign into law? Exactly one, the “Girls Count Act of 2015.”
The bill is an act “To authorize the Secretary of State and the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries.”
Commendable, but hardly a legislative career to inspire Florida’s conservative Republicans to swoon over Rubio’s candidacy and to turn out in droves to vote for him.
Rubio’s campaign is based on what he is – a fresh, young, conservative face – rather than on what he has done. That strategy is necessary because, in the U.S. Senate, Rubio has done virtually nothing. Even his achievements as a state legislator were – as Context Florida publisher Peter Schorsch has noted – mostly because of then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
The problem is that the Republican base likes what Donald Trump is more than they like what Marco Rubio is. To them, Rubio is the guy who had his chance and blew it. Trump is the guy who still has the chance to blow things up.
Rubio’s campaign wants the horrified branch of the GOP to think that he is the guy who can stop Trump and Cruz and then rally the party behind him to win in November. Rubio can’t do that if he is the guy who can’t even win the GOP primary in his home state.
As March 15 approaches, Rubio is plagued by this question: Marco, what have you done for Florida lately?
• • •
Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida.