When Sen. Marco Rubio ran for president the primary time, he was in a rush.
However now, Rubio, R-Fla., is gearing for a 3rd Senate bid, and he seems OK to attend.
“You may be the world’s biggest surfer and you may present as much as the seaside with the perfect surfboard you’ll be able to think about,” he mentioned in a latest interview when requested about his ambitions for 2024. “But when there is no waves that day, there’s nothing you are able to do about it.”
Former President Donald Trump is looming giant — over Rubio’s 2022 race and over the White Home hopes of any variety of different Republicans waiting for the subsequent presidential primaries. Backers and critics agree that the Trump period was transformative for Rubio, who as soon as thought he would not final lengthy within the Senate.
“For those who have a look at the final four-plus years, it has been radically totally different from what he is achieved,” a senior adviser mentioned, including that Rubio’s change of coronary heart in regards to the Senate as an establishment is “straight tied to his success.”
He hasn’t stopped fascinated by the White Home for himself — or of himself because the Republican with the transformative imaginative and prescient for a celebration that has centered a few of the cultural, financial and overseas coverage points he seeks to champion. And as he prepares for a re-election battle, he has sought to stroll a line between acknowledging President Joe Biden’s legitimacy and backing Republican-led efforts to vary voting legal guidelines as Trump continues to falsely declare that widespread fraud price him a second time period.
His proponents say Rubio has emerged as a voice that bucks conventional GOP orthodoxy on points like commerce, racking up legislative successes whereas proving himself a key ally of Trump’s. Critics see in Rubio somebody who’s shapeshifting as he seeks to additional ingratiate himself with Trump’s voters forward of one other bid for the presidency.
Throughout the 2016 GOP primaries, Rubio criticized Trump for egging on violence at his rallies and mentioned that “for years to return,” People must “clarify and justify how they fell into this lure of supporting Donald Trump, as a result of this isn’t going to finish nicely.”
However Rubio buried his variations with Trump as Trump turned the GOP nominee, in a method that proved particularly fruitful by quite a few metrics.
After reluctantly operating for and successful a second time period, he took a lead position in increasing the kid tax credit score — additionally a precedence of Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump — as a part of the 2017 tax overhaul, the fruits of a longtime effort. Final yr, Rubio co-authored the Paycheck Safety Program and shepherded the Covid-19 aid invoice for small companies into legislation, a landmark achievement.
Concurrently, Rubio labored carefully with Trump on overseas coverage, a lot in order that he was described as “a digital secretary of state for Latin America.” Extra just lately, he has been amongst a number of main contributors to bipartisan laws about China making its method by Congress. And, as Florida’s senior senator, Rubio centered points near house. In March, the New York Occasions editorial board known as Rubio the Senate’s “most vigorous champion” for Everglades Nationwide Park.
His efforts have led to different accolades. The College of Virginia/Vanderbilt College Middle for Efficient Lawmaking rated Rubio as the simplest Republican senator within the final Congress.
However as his Senate fortunes have modified, so, too, has Rubio, who was as soon as generally known as the aspirational voice of conservatism. Critics who watch him communicate now say he seeks to channel the identical cultural grievances and anger that helped propel Trump to the presidency.
“He was at all times type of a contented warrior,” mentioned Steve Schale, a high Florida Democratic operative who has recognized Rubio since his time within the state Legislature. “It appears like he has spent the final couple of years making an attempt to determine a voice. And it does not really feel genuine to the Marco Rubio who I’ve adopted for greater than 20 years of his profession. I do not get offended Marco. That is simply not who he’s.”
Rubio disputed that concept.
“I believe my instincts have at all times been the place they’re now,” Rubio mentioned. “As you are uncovered to new details, new realities, and because the world adjustments, so, too, does your public coverage response to it.”
Allies say Rubio’s strategy was affirmed by Florida’s decisively pink shift. Trump received the state handily final yr, and in Rubio’s house county, Miami-Dade, Republicans gained about 200,000 votes in comparison with 2016, whereas Democrats misplaced greater than 5,000.
Florida’s Senate race is without doubt one of the marquee matchups on the 2022 calendar, and Rubio has spent latest months making an attempt to outline what right-wing populist messaging and coverage appear to be with Trump out workplace however nonetheless holding appreciable sway over GOP voters. Rubio had his fingers in nearly each such effort on the precise, from the “wokeness” backlash to the social gathering’s evolving platform on China. He’s even on the forefront of UFO mania.
Democrats see in Rubio somebody who deserted rules to grow to be one of many Senate’s most MAGA members. However they know he’ll be robust to beat subsequent yr. Already, one of many state’s high Democrats, Rep. Val Demings, plans to problem him. (Trump gave Rubio his “full and complete endorsement.”)
“He desires to be all issues to all folks,” mentioned Fernand Amandi, a Florida Democratic marketing consultant. “The problem for these that aren’t supporters of Rubio is that he is but to essentially pay a political worth in any actual context.”
But for all his latest maneuvering, it is an open query whether or not Rubio might persuade GOP main voters to comply with. A 2024 White Home bid depends upon quite a few elements — chief amongst them whether or not Trump runs.
“Nicely, I’ve run for president as soon as, so clearly I’ve had curiosity within the place,” Rubio mentioned. “And so for me to let you know that I’d by no means run once more is foolish. However what I can not let you know is I do not know what the world appears like in 2024. I do not know what my life appears like in 2024. I do not know what the social gathering shall be in search of in 2024. A number of that’s going to rely upon elements I can not predict and, frankly, in lots of instances do not management.”
A Mason-Dixon survey launched in March discovered that 46 % of Florida voters thought he needs to be re-elected, whereas 40 % did not. On the presidential stage, Rubio polled at simply 1 % in a Morning Seek the advice of/Politico ballot of the 2024 main race final month, trailing Trump and a handful of different hopefuls.
“At a sure stage, he is aware of the place the wind is blowing,” mentioned a GOP Senate aide who does not work for Rubio. “However he is at all times been a extra attention-grabbing thinker than he will get credit score for.”
After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Rubio mentioned Trump “bears duty for a few of what occurred,” though he would go on to say the second impeachment trial was “silly” and vote for Trump’s acquittal. Final month, he condemned the proposed Jan. 6 fee as “a partisan joke” that was “about damaging Republicans.”
Requested in regards to the argument of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., that embracing or ignoring Trump’s electoral falsehoods for fundraising and political functions would “do profound long-term injury to our social gathering and our nation,” Rubio demurred.
“There are those who wish to consider what they wish to consider,” Rubio mentioned. “And to the extent that these points come up, in case you’re requested about it, you handle it. Was the election stolen? I by no means mentioned that it was. I pointed to our course of for counting ballots and the best way all that works. However that is superb. I perceive overlaying what President Trump has mentioned and is saying is attention-grabbing.”
He argued that “each minute” spent debating the 2020 election is wasteful. (Different Republicans would disagree: Trump and allies are pushing for an enlargement of partisan poll opinions just like the one underway in Arizona to different states, together with Pennsylvania.)
“100 years from now, when any individual sits down and writes historical past they usually write in regards to the choices being made at this second, they might very nicely point out the 2020 election and the controversy surrounding it,” he mentioned. “However I guarantee you that after they write the e book on the twenty first century, all of what is occurred within the final six months could also be talked about, however on the core of it’s going to be what was the connection between the USA and China? And what choices did the USA make at that essential second?”
Because the GOP main discipline awaits Trump’s determination, a former Rubio staffer mentioned, “I do not assume anyone ought to ever depend out Marco Rubio for something.”