Yesterday, after Miami Rep. David Rivera made it official that he supported Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, the anonymous conservative whisper campaign began. They pointed out that Rivera, the only one of the three Republican representatives from Miami not to endorse Mitt Romney, had been dogged by state and federal investigations owing to investigative reports in The Miami Herald.
Some people didn't like Rivera, the always-on-offense pit fighter. Others didn't like Gingrich. Some didn't like both. So it was an two-fer.
The sentiment was summed up nicely by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin: "It actually is true you can tell a person by the company he keeps. In Florida today, Newt Gingrich got a nice warm introduction from none other than Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.). Has Gingrich slipped completely off his rocker?"
But, by this standard, the Republicans' beloved Senator, Florida's Marco Rubio, needs some new furniture. Rivera isn't just an ally of Rubio's. He's a close family friend, like an uncle to Rubio's kids.
When Rubio was Florida House Speaker, Rivera was his Rules Chairman and political enforcer. When the network Univision put Rubio's family in a tough spot, Rivera almost single-handedly got the various Republican presidential campaigns to boycott a proposed debate by Univision in retaliation. At one point, Rivera went so far as to buttonhole Rep. Michele Bachmann on the U.S. House floor to ensure she'd back the boycott.
Last month, when Rubio's political committee held a fundraiser, Rivera arrived with the senator and his wife in their SUV. He then introduced Rubio, who sticks by the friends who stick by him.
Some of the Florida Republicans who work for Romney and know about Rubio's close association with Rivera kept their mouths shut when their fellow conservatives started to potshot Gingrich over Rivera. They knew this was a no-win idea.
After all, just like Gingrich's attacks on Bain Capital, attacking Gingrich over Rivera plays into the hands of Democrats, who get to sit back, pull up the popcorn and send out press releases of Republicans attacking each other in their own words.