WASHINGTON -- Marco Rubio nearly quit politics.
He was so broke in 2001 that just as he began his ascent in the Florida House, he and his wife had to move in with her mother. Rubio decided to leave Tallahassee and practice law full-time.
He got in his car to think and wound up at Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, where he had gotten married three years earlier. He knelt to pray. “Why had God allowed me to come so far only to let me fail?” he recounted in a 2012 memoir.
“I imagined telling my children someday that I had once been the majority whip of the Florida House but had lost my job and had to leave politics to make a living. … I left the church still worried, but resigned to accept whatever happened. On my way back to my mother-in-law’s house, my cellphone rang.”
A headhunter had a lead on a job at a Broward County law firm. The $93,000 salary allowed Rubio to move his family into their own home. And race ahead with his political career.
As a Republican presidential candidate, 43-year-old Rubio is portraying himself as someone who shares the struggles and aspirations of many Americans. It’s not just a line when he talks about crushing college loans; he has lived it. He has felt the squeeze of a mortgage and providing for four children.
Yet Rubio’s story also raises old criticisms that he has lacked personal fiscal discipline, got special financial favors and abused campaign funds. It reveals a career politician’s income growing in step with his rising clout in Tallahassee, including a $300,000 a year job at a law firm that arrived as he locked in the position as House speaker.