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FL-Senate: Rubio's Running (Still)

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio is staying in the U.S. Senate race. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) will not exit the state's open seat Senate race despite facing long odds and a cash deficit against Gov. Charlie Crist (R), according to sources familiar with his decision.

"He's committed to the Senate race," said one Rubio adviser who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. "In case there was any doubt, last week he made it clear in public and private meetings."

Rubio will be in Washington tomorrow for a series of meetings and will hold a press availability at 5:45 p.m. where he is expected to re-assert his commitment to the race.

Over the last week (or so), Rubio made calls to Florida political types to explore the possibility of leaving the Senate race -- and entering the open contest for state attorney general -- following the release of campaign finance reports that showed Crist raking in $4.3 million to Rubio's $340,000 between April 1 and June 30.

Rubio's decision to stay in the race -- allies insist he is committed to seeing the primary out no matter what -- complicates, slightly, Crist's glide path to the Senate.

Rubio has won support from several national conservatives including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and his campaign is doing everything they can to turn the race into a referendum on the future direction of the GOP.

As we have written before, however, if Rubio can't stay within shouting distance of Crist financially, the effort to cast the contest as a battle for the ideological soul of the Republican party won't materialize.

The third fundraising quarter, which covers money collected and spent between July 1 and Sept. 30, is absolutely critical to Rubio. He'll never be the money machine that Crist is but another quarter of being outraised at a 10-1 clip would make him irrelevant whether he is in the race or out of it.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 21, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party , Senate  
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As much as I'm diametrically opposed to Rubio's rather extreme views, I like an underdog, and I admire his tenacity.

Primaries shouldn't be easy--although they oughtn't be as lengthy as the 2008 Presidential was--and they certainly outline who is the most popular candidate with the base (electability is another question, of course). Crist, much as I tend in his direction, ought to fight for the nomination and will emerge as a better candidate for it.

I certainly hope that Sestak gives 'Snarlin' Arlen' a run for his money in the PA primary, and hope that he (Sestak) emerges triumphant.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 21, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

@ceflynline: Florida is an interesting one. For a loooong time the Miami Cubans had vast sway, ultra-far-right anticommunists still smarting over Castro. Now Castro is retired and the Miami Cubans are aging and dying, their kids aren't anywhere near as passionate about Cuba.

So Florida's Latinos are voting more like Latinos everywhere else; leave it to the GOP to not figure it out until it's too late.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 21, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

"Why run an unwinnable race? Why? Jeb Bush is the only possible GOP candidate that could beat out Crist, and he's not running. He had first dips & bowed out. Now it's Crist's race to win. Posted by: reason5 "

Because, by running, Rubio tells Crist not to get to centrist. Conservative leverage. A regular feature of Republican Conservative strategy and tactics.

Any centrist Republican gets Conservative opposition in the primaries to make him spend money and waste time and energy he might need in the general election. Now he spends more time playing to the far right to protect his own flanks in primaries.

(That is one reason that at least a few republicans will slit their own throats and vote against SS. They have to placate the right by saying the right words and voting the right way.)

Posted by: ceflynline | July 21, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

So, the GOP is upset because its strongest candidate is too much like a Democrat?

Hmmm. There's a lesson there, somewhere.

Posted by: nodebris | July 21, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

As a Florida D, let me lay this out for you:

Charlie Crist IS NOT a typical Republican. He got his clock cleaned last time he ran for Senate because he tried to face off against Bob Graham (a true favorite son of FL politics), but this round will be different. He's built himself as a moderate and should be able to sustain that message through the general election.

Rubio represents the far right wing of the FL Republican party in both fiscal and social issues. He won't back down because, though he's opposed at the highest levels of the state party, he's supported by the grassroots extending up to county REC chairs. I think the idea is that this network will carry him to the nomination. As it stands, Rubio can present a threat to Crist by dragging the primary further to the right, but I doubt he can do much more.

I'm almost tempted to donate money to the Rubio campaign because if he can put together decent fundraising totals and disseminate his message he'll fracture the Republican base. The true test will come when we see the next quarter of fundraising numbers. Two questions will then be answered: can Crist sustain his fundraising juggernaut AND can Marco catch up in the money game?

Posted by: dixielandpunker | July 21, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Florida went blue in 2008. They're not going to elect another GOP caveman.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 21, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Rubio's running (still)...I must wonder...why? Why would he continue running. Crist is a prized recruit of Cornyn, Crist has been endorsed by the NRSC, Crist raised $4,000,000 to Rubio's nearly $400,000 & Crist already has huge positives as Florida's very popular governor while Rubio is hardly known outside of South Florida. Crist as a governor, supported the stimulus package because he wanted & needed Florida to have that wealth. I don't think Rubio will be a serious candidate and he may as well take that news conference tommorrow to announce he is leaving the US Senate race & is entering the AG race. Why run an unwinnable race? Why? Jeb Bush is the only possible GOP candidate that could beat out Crist, and he's not running. He had first dips & bowed out. Now it's Crist's race to win.

Posted by: reason5 | July 21, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Or he might have some oppo research that could bring Crist's campaign to a screeching halt.

Posted by: Bondosan | July 21, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

What's his niche?

Or maybe he's identified his niche & is exploiting it, problem being that Crist's niche is a cavern.

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 21, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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