On Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) became the latest politician to declare what anyone who’s paying attention already knew: He’s running for president. Rubio is likely to trip over his past before the race is over.
Rubio became a household name, and a Republican “rock star,” following his elevation to national politics in 2010. He was the darling of the tea party, and thought to be one of the best hopes for a Republican Party desperate to appeal to Latino voters. That is, until the tea party and Latinos soured on him, over the immigration issue.
Here are a few things that may haunt Marco Rubio on the campaign trail.
Rubio will be forever remembered for delivering one of the worst State of the Union responses ever. In 2013, Rubio delivered the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Most people couldn’t tell you what Rubio said that night, but they’ll remember that Rubio was “thirsty” — in more ways than one, perhaps.
Rubio is “not a scientist.” Asked the age of the earth, during a 2012 GQ profile, Rubio’s response was one for the ages.
GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
Never mind that there’s quite a lot of evidence to support the scientific explanation that the universe started expanding 13.7 billion years ago, and none to support the notion that it took “7 days, or 7 actual ages.”
Rubio converted to climate denialism for political convenience. Clean energy was one of Rubio’s top priorities when he began his term as speaker of the Florida House in 2007. “Global warming, dependence on foreign sources of fuel, and capitalism have come together to create opportunities for us that were unimaginable just a few short years ago,” he said as he argued for Florida to become, “an international model of energy efficiency and independence.”
By 2013, when he responded to the State of the Union address, Rubio said that the U.S. should focus its efforts on extracting more coal, oil, and natural gas, “instead of wasting more money on so-called clean-energy companies like Solyndra.” These days, Rubio claims that government policies that restrict emissions are “devastating to the economy.”
Rubio flipped-flopped on his own immigration bill. After President Obama’s 2012 victory, the GOP had a conundrum. The party needed a way to increase its standing with minority groups. Latinos were the most likely choice, immigration was the most likely issue, and Rubio was the guy most likely to bring it all together.
Well, he tried. But Rubio and the GOP still had to satisfy the virulently anti-immigrant tea partiers. As a result, Rubio was all over the map, and eventually ended up opposing his own immigration bill.
Rubio is unpopular with Latinos. If Republicans are counting on Rubio’s presence on the ticket to win over Latino voters, they should think again. A Huffington Post poll of Latinos who voted in the 2014 election shows that only 31 percent have a favorable view of Rubio, while 36 have an unfavorable view of him, and 26 percent have a “very unfavorable view.”
Rubio has a scandalous history. Scandals in his past could cause voters to question Rubio’s judgement, and wonder if they can trust him.
- Rubio has ties to disgraced, scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.). Rubio and Rivera met in 1992 during the campaign of former Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The two shared ownership of a Tallahassee townhouse that entered foreclosure in 2010. Last month, Rubio and Rivera put the house up for sale.
- During his term as speaker, two political committees started by Rubio that took in more than $600,000 in less than three years, made thousands of dollars in questionable payments, including $14,000 for “couriers” including relatives of Rubio doing political work around the state, and undisclosed reimbursements to Rubio himself.
- During the 2010 campaign, the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald reported that Rubio charged thousands of dollars in personal expenses — including grocery bills, minivan repairs, and wine purchases — to a credit card belonging to the Republican Party of Florida, while he was speaker of the Florida House. Rubio claimed the party allowed him to charge personal expenses to the card, but the party spokeswoman nixed that idea. The FBI and IRS investigated how Republican officials and legislators in Florida used their state party credit cards.
- In 2010, Rubio also admitted to double-billing Florida taxpayers and the state Republican party for air travel during his term as speaker of the Florida House. Rubio claimed the billing was a mistake and repaid $3,000 to the state GOP.
- In 2013, the Federal Election Commission fined Rubio $8,000 for more than $200,000 in improper contributions to his 2010 campaign.
Rubio is an anti-gay bigot. Rubio may be billing himself as the young, fresh face that the GOP desperately needs, but when it comes to LGBT equality, he’s selling the same brand of bigotry as the right-wing old guard. He’s tried to have it both ways — during a speech at Catholic University in Washington last year Rubio acknowledged that American history was “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians” — but in the end Rubio toes the anti-LGBT line as the GOP base demands.
During the same speech at Catholic University, Rubio accused marriage equality advocates of “intolerance” and “hypocrisy.” Rubio repeated the accusation in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy … Today there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance for those who continue to support traditional marriage.”
Rubio may not like the term, but the definition fits.
- Despite saying, “I don’t believe that gay Americans should be denied services at a restaurant or hotel or anything of that nature,” Rubio supported Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, which would allow businesses and individuals to deny services to LGBT people. Rubio supported a similar bill in Arizona in 2013.
- Rubio called the expansion of Florida’s foster care program to include same-sex couples a “social experiment.”
- Rubio supported Speaker John Boehner’s decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and condemned the Obama administration for declining to defend it.
- Rubio opposes protecting LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination, and was one of 29 senators to vote against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Salon’s Luke Brinker illustrated Rubio’s anti-LGBT politics at its ugliest.
The same day that the Russian parliament declared war on gay citizens, Sen. Marco Rubio issued a headline-grabbing proclamation: The Florida Republican said he would jettison the immigration reform legislation he’d spent months helping craft if it included an amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign spouses for permanent residency — a right long afforded to heterosexual citizens. Leahy had introduced the amendment once, only to withdraw it amid political pressure, before reintroducing it once again on June 11.
But Rubio, who is slated to announce his 2016 presidential bid this evening, would have none of it.
“If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill,” Rubio told Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros on her radio show. “I’m gone, I’m off it, and I’ve said that repeatedly. And I don’t think that’s going to happen, and it shouldn’t happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.”
Here’s what was going on in Russia as Rubio issued his ultimatum.
Rubio weighed the fate of a gay Russian spouse of an American citizen seeking refuge from that nightmare against the demands of conservative primary voters, and chose the latter.
Who is Marco Rubio? Marco Rubio is not the son of Cuban refugees, but he plays one on the American political stage. In 2011, the GOP’s own “birthers” caught Rubio lying about his family history, in a cynical attempt to play on the sympathies of Republican constituents and fellow Cuban-Americans. In his official senate bio, Rubio claimed to be the “son of exiles” who “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover” in Cuba.
As it turned out, Rubio’s parents came to the U.S. in 1956 — a full three years before Castro came to power, in 1959. Rubio was, in no uncertain terms, caught. But instead of owning up, Rubio went on the attack, and accused fact-checkers of insulting his family (while quietly cleaning up his bio). Conservative media rallied to his defense.
Conservative columnist David Frum summed up just why it all mattered:
… since identity politics has been central to Rubio’s political career, his lying about his identity is a much, much more serious matter than a typical run of the mill white lie in politics …