October 10, 2015

Marco Rubio finds a taste of Miami in Las Vegas



LAS VEGAS -- Marco Rubio hopped onto a makeshift stage in a wing of a large family restaurant, where the wallpaper depicted palm fronds, the silverware clattered and the unmistakable aroma of croquetas filled the air.

"You know what it is to come all the way to Las Vegas for a Cuban restaurant?" the Florida senator asked Friday evening at Havana Grill, which advertises its "Cuban cuisine" as well as its "Cuban/Mexican fusion" (don't ask).

"¡Viva Cuba libre!" someone in the happy-hour crowd yelled.

"I love being around Cubans," Rubio responded.

The 2016 Republican presidential hopeful launched into his campaign speech -- only to stop himself several minutes in at the sight of a waitress delivering mojitos to Rubio supporters sitting near the stage.

"They're handing out mojitos at my speech!" Rubio interjected. At least two people offered him their drinks.

"No, I drink water," he joked, referring to his ill-timed swig at the 2013 State of the Union response televised live across the country.

Then someone offered Rubio a cafecito. That, he accepted.

"You guys are messing with my stump speech," he said.

Marco Rubio wrestles with latest political spotlight

GOP 2016 Rubio (4)


LAS VEGAS -- Marco Rubio didn’t want to be on the nation’s political radar. Not this early in the presidential race. Not with so much time left for rivals to take aim at the big target on his back.

Yet here he is, attracting larger crowds and more news reporters and trying to make the most of it — without taking it too far.

“Mr. President,” a man’s question to Rubio began Friday at a Las Vegas country club.

“No, I gotta earn that,” Rubio quickly responded. “Marco, for now.”

It was the second time in less than 24 hours that someone addressed him as commander in chief. On both occasions, the Florida senator answered the same way: Take a breather.

Jeb Bush labeled himself the “tortoise” (the “joyful tortoise,” to be exact) in the 2016 race. But Rubio, the far less known of the two Miami Republicans, was the one who had intended from the get-go to lay low and ride the middle of the packed GOP field until he built enough momentum to break out in early caucuses and primaries come February.

The wild political year defied his plans.

More here.

Photo credit: John Locher, Associated Press

October 09, 2015

New ad from 'dark money' group backing Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

Conservative Solutions Project, a nonprofit aligned with Marco Rubio, has produced another TV ad on his behalf. The spot, called "American Dream," went up Monday, a spokesman says.

The group, which does not disclose its donors, has become a major asset for the Florida Republican. It has raised at least $16 million and likely a lot more. Conservative Solutions Project is "making a new push to peel away supporters of Mr. Bush’s by reminding them that campaign finance law allows them to give to the group anonymously," according to a New York Times report.

We explored the rise of "dark money" in a recent story.


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 08, 2015

Marco Rubio campaign says it raised about $6M in third quarter

GOP 2016 Rubio (3)


LAS VEGAS -- Marco Rubio raised about $6 million for his presidential effort by the end of Sept. 30, according to figures campaign officials shared Thursday with top political donors.

The Florida Republican senator has collected about $18 million since launching his campaign in April, according to a source attending the two-day donor gathering at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The bulk of that -- more than $12 million -- came in by the end of June. About $3 million had been transferred from his Senate reelection campaign.

That's less than most other presidential candidates who have already divulged their quarterly fundraising totals. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson raked in more than $20 million. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to surpass the $11.4 million he raised by the end of June, The Wall Street Journal reported, and Bush expects to be outraised by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he raised $2.5 million -- a number a presidential campaign could burn through quickly. (Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders said they amassed $28 million and $26 million, respectively.) 

Rubio and his aides have boasted that they're frugal. They told donors Thursday that about $11 million of the $18 million raised since April remains in the bank.

How much each candidate has spent won’t be available until campaigns file detailed reports to the Federal Election Commission until next week.

The Rubio source said July was "a very tough month," as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other contenders entered the race (Walker has since dropped out). August is usually slow because many contributors are on vacation, the officials stressed to donors.

But the campaign "finished the quarter strong," bringing in more than $1 million online alone in September, according to the source.

Rubio donors have told the Miami Herald in recent weeks that his strong showing in a pair of televised primary debates made it easier to persuade their acquaintances to donate to the candidate. Rubio's poll numbers have edged up since the Sept. 16 debate, and he has stepped up his TV interviews and campaign events.

In all, the Rubio campaign has received cash from nearly 100,000 donors, the officials told the top contributors, suggesting a growing grassroots interest in his campaign.

Photo credit: Jim Cole, Associated Press

October 07, 2015

Quinnipiac poll: Donald Trump leads in Florida, Jeb Bush drops to 4th place


Donald Trump remains in first place among Florida Republican voters -- despite being disliked and not trusted -- with twice as much support as Miami favorites Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Trump garnered 28 percent support in the Quinnipiac University poll, followed by Ben Carson (16 percent), Rubio (14 percent) and Bush (12 percent). (Carson is a part-time West Palm Beach resident, and Trump also owns property there.)

"The generally more energized Republican party members, who backed former Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio when they ran for office in the Sunshine State, are deserting the establishment candidates for outsiders -- specifically Trump and Carson," Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director, said in a statement.

Still, asked if they have a positive view of Trump, 57 percent of poll respondents said they don't. Fifty-four percent said he's not honest and trustworthy.

Bush's slide has been dramatic: A February Q poll pegged his support at 32 percent. It was 17 percent in the firm's last survey in August. In the latest poll, Bush didn't crack the top five candidates in the two other swing states Quinnipiac surveyed: Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Rubio didn't either in Ohio but was third in Pennsylvania.)

Early polls, Bush and his team have been saying for a while, don't matter. Rubio has said the same thing.

Despite Trump's lead, he wouldn't defeat Democrats in potential general election match-ups, according to the poll, which has an error margin of 2.9 percentage points.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continues to hold a commanding lead with 43 percent support, followed by 19 percent each for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who is not a candidate.

October 06, 2015

PPP poll: Donald Trump still leads GOP field, Marco Rubio has 'momentum'


Donald Trump's lead in the 2016 Republican presidential race has not grown but remained steady since late August, according to a new public-opinion survey by the Democratic-leaning PPP polling firm.

Trump drew 27 percent support in the poll, compared to 29 percent in August. Ben Carson came in second place with 17 percent (similar to 15 percent in the last PPP poll). Then came Marco Rubio with 13 percent and Jeb Bush with 10 percent. Trump's lead holds "with every subgroup of the GOP electorate," the survey notes.

"Rubio is really the only candidate who can claim any sort of momentum," according to the poll. "He's gone from 5th place at 7% to 3rd place at 13% over the last five weeks. And he has a 57/24 favorability rating that puts him only behind Carson when it comes to the most broadly liked of the Republican hopefuls. No one other than Rubio has seen more than a 2 point gain since our last poll."

Of Bush, the poll notes 10 percent is up a point from the previous survey, "but he's becoming more and more unpopular with Republican voters overall.

"Just 34% have a favorable opinion of him to 49% with a negative one. His struggles continue to be fueled by strong distrust from voters who identify themselves as 'very conservative' - his favorability with them is 26/56 and only 2% support him for the nomination." 

The usual caveat applies: It's early in the presidential race, and national polls don't show how candidates are doing in states that hold the first primaries and caucuses.

'My ambitions are not for me,' Marco Rubio says

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio continued to grab the spotlight with an appearance on NBC's Today and one of the first questions he faced was his absence in Washington. The presidential contender is on track to miss two consecutive weeks of votes in Washington and has the worst attendance record of any current senator.

While Rubio not long ago railed on the Senate floor, "If you don't want to vote on things, don't run for the Senate," he has been telling reporters lately that voting is not the most important part of the job.

"My ambitions are not for me. My ambitions are for my country and for Florida," Rubio told Matt Lauer this morning.

The interview also touches on the race for House speaker (Rubio takes a pass) and the Oregon shooting (Rubio says new gun laws won't help).

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 05, 2015

Marco Rubio on Jeb Bush: 'The world has changed a lot in 15 years'


Marco Rubio suggested in an interview aired Monday that his one-time mentor turned presidential rival Jeb Bush has been out of office too long to be the best 2016 Republican contender.

"The world has changed a lot in 15 years," Rubio told Fox News' John Roberts. Bush was last elected 13 years ago, in 2002, and left office in eight years ago, in early 2007.

"The issues we confronted in Florida 15 years ago are nothing like the issues the country's confronting now," Rubio continued. "I'm very confident that over the last few years -- in the time that I've been involved in all of this -- no one has shown better judgment, or more leadership on the issues facing our country, than I have."

Rubio was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives 15 years ago, in 2000, when he was 29. Bush said last week that Rubio "followed" the former governor's leadership in Tallahassee.


CNN: Donald Trump pranks sweaty Marco Rubio with water

From CNN:

Donald Trump is escalating his attacks on Sen. Marco Rubio with a special delivery for his rival: "Trump Ice Natural Spring Water."

Trump has previously trained his fire on Rubio, claiming he has the worst voting attendance record in the U.S. Senate and that he sweats a lot. But CNN learned that the Trump campaign sent a "care package" to Rubio's Washington campaign office that contained a 24-bottle case of "Trump Ice Natural Spring Water," with Trump's face on it, two "Make America Great Again" towels and bumper stickers and a note reading, "Since you're always sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy!"

A Trump campaign aide said they added the towels "for him sweating," and described the overall gesture as a lighthearted prank.

More here.

If Jeb Bush were to dock Marco Rubio's pay for Senate absences

GOP 2016 Rubio(2) (1)


Jeb Bush has said for months that members of Congress should get their pay dock for missing work. He hasn't mentioned him by name, but rival Marco Rubio has the highest absentee record in the U.S. Senate.

"Why is it that people miss votes in the United States Congress in such a rampant way?" Bush asked in a New Hampshire town hall last week. He first proposed the pay-docking idea in Tallahassee in July.

So how much would Rubio have lost so far this year under Bush's proposal?

Here's a back-of-the-envelope calculation:

According to GovTrack, Rubio missed 81 of 272 eligible Senate votes through Oct. 1, or nearly 30 percent. Multiply that by $130,500 -- Rubio's Senate salary -- and the Florida Republican would get docked $38,862.13. 

A Bush supporter running for Rubio's Senate seat, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, poked Rubio on Monday over his vote record.

Rubio has dismissed criticism over his absences by saying he has been frustrated by the Senate's dysfunction and thinks he could better employ his political skills in the White House. He told CNBC on Monday, according to a CNN transcription, that "being a senator is more than just casting a vote," referring to his office's work for constituents.

"If there is a vote where my vote is going to make a difference or an issue of major national significance and importance, we'd do everything possible to be there. But I am going to miss votes -- I'm running for president," he conceded.

"When I miss a vote, it's not because I'm out playing golf. We're out campaigning for the future of America where I believe I can make more of a difference as president than I could as a senator."

Photo credit: Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP