March 13, 2015

Scott Walker sizes up Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush

via @adamsmithtimes

MANCHESTER, N.H. --- We sat down this morning with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is making his first New Hampshire campaign swing as a likely presidential candidate this weekend along with Jeb Bush. Naturally we asked him how he can compete against Bush, who appears to be raising immense sums of money, and about Marco Rubio's suggestion that, as a senator and foreign relations and intelligence committee member, Rubio has a key advantage over current or previous governors on foreign policy.

Walker on foreign policy: "I think (Rubio's) great at foreign policy and other issues, but I just think there's a difference. In my lifetime, the most significant president in terms of foreign policy was a governor -- Ronald Reagan. The most important ingredient in foreign policy is leadership."

On Bush and his support from GOP establishment: "We had Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. If it's just whoever's next up, that hasn't worked so well for the Republican party in the past. ... Jeb's a good man. You're not going to hear me speak ill will of Jeb. He's a friend of mine, He called me two days before (announcing) his PAC, I think highly of him. I just think voters are going to look at this and say, 'If we're running against Hillary Clinton, we'll need a name from the future -- not a name from the past -  to win.' "

On Bush's fundraising: "Yeah, he'll have by far the biggest report. There's a lot of people who are loyal to that family because of an ambassadorship or an appointment or something like that, so those people are going to show up big on his first report. What we're hoping going forward are not donors of obligation but donors of passion, people who are passionate about the reforms we bring to the table."

--ADAM SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

March 12, 2015

New Hampshire GOP summit next month to draw Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

They failed to connect last weekend in Iowa, but Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have heard the cattle call in New Hampshire.

The Florida Republicans are scheduled to appear at the NH GOP's #FITN Republican Leadership Summit next month in Nashua. Rubio will appear on April 17. Bush's time has not been set. Candidates won't appear on stage together. Each one will speak and take questions from the audience, according to organizers.

Bush went to an Ag summit in Iowa last weekend but Rubio canceled, citing a family wedding.

Bush will be in New Hampshire this weekend, and his campaign depends heavily on the state.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio to hold hearing on worsening situation in Venezuela, and on U.S. reaction to it


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from West Miami who last year prodded the White House to take strong action against Venezuelan officials for human rights abuses, will convene a hearing next week on unrest in the South American nation and the U.S. response to it.

Earlier this week, the White House issued an executive order that slapped sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials, including the heads of military intelligence and the police, and said the situation in the country posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Rubio said the White House’s action was a good first step but that more could be done.

Rubio co-sponsored legislation last year that directed the White House to take the kind of action it did on Monday. Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, also co-sponsored the legislation.

As chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio will hold the hearing on Tuesday on the “deepening political and economic crisis in Venezuela." Scheduled witnesses include those from the State Department and the Treasury Department.

Said Rubio in a statement announcing the hearing: “The human rights and economic crisis in Venezuela is only going to get worse and will have major repercussions on America’s interests there and throughout the entire Western Hemisphere. While the financial sanctions on individual human rights violators that were announced earlier this week have put a spotlight on the disaster Nicolas Maduro and his regime have inflicted on the Venezuelan people, more must be done and more attention must be paid to this humanitarian and economic crisis that increasingly threatens regional security.”

March 11, 2015

Marco Rubio, John Kerry spar over Iran


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had a pointed exchange Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate hearing that was supposed to be about U.S. military action against ISIS but instead turned into a discussion about ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, which have become a political lightning rod in the early 2016 presidential campaign.

Rubio, like other likely Republican candidates, has taken a hard line on the negotiations. He was one of 47 GOP senators to sign an "open letter" to Iran warning that any potential deal struck by the Obama administration might not be supported by the GOP-controlled Congress. The letter caused a political firestorm and diplomatic uproar. Senate historians have found little precedent for such a move. 

But Rubio used his support of the letter as a fundraising opportunity.

That was after Wednesday's hearing, in which Rubio's first question to Kerry was this: 

"I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don't walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you're working on," he said. "Tell me why I'm wrong."

"Because the facts completely contradict that," said Kerry, before adding that he couldn't elaborate because details about the talks should remain secret.

The back-and-forth continued for about five minutes, with Rubio later saying Sunni countries in the Middle East that are U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are worried about the potential Iran deal.

"Is it not right that they feel that we've kept them in the dark about our negotiations with Iran and that in essence the way we've proceeded with our negotiations with Iran have impacted our trust level with these critical allies in this coalition?" the Florida Republican said. "Is that not accurate?"

"Senator, that actually is flat wrong also," Kerry responded. "Flat wrong." 

In the video below, posted on YouTube by Rubio's office, the exchange begins around the 1:20 mark.


March 10, 2015

Rubio: Venezuela sanctions good first step but “no shortage” of other targets


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who last year prodded the White House to take strong action against Venezuelan officials for human rights abuses, said this week’s move to do so was “a good first step” but “there’s more work to be done, clearly.”

In an interview Tuesday with the Miami Herald, the Republican from West Miami welcomed the White House’s action but noted it only came after pressure from Congress. Rubio  co-sponsored legislation last year that directed the White House to take the kind of action it did on Monday.

Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, also co-sponsored the legislation.

Asked if the White House would have acted as it did absent the legislation, Rubio said, “Probably not.”

He added: “Certainly not absent the legislation and/or public speaking about it, creating awareness about it. I would hope they would have, but I doubt they would have. If you recall, just a few months ago, they openly opposed what they’re now doing.”

Last year, Obama administration officials testified that they didn’t yet want to use sanctions, fearful they might be counterproductive at that time.

On Monday, however, the administration issued an executive order that slapped sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials, including the heads of military intelligence and the police, and said the situation in the South American country posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Continue reading "Rubio: Venezuela sanctions good first step but “no shortage” of other targets " »

Billionaire environmentalist's PAC wants Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio to denounce Florida climate change 'gag order'


A political committee run by a billionaire environmentalist wants Miami's two possible Republican presidential contenders to denounce -- within 48 hours -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration for banning the use of "global warming" and "climate change."

"Pretending a problem doesn't exist won't make it go away -- Floridians deserve real leadership on this issue," read identical letters to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the NextGen Climate political committee. "If you remain silent, your priorities will be exposed and you'll make clear where you stand on this critical issue."

The request is likely to carry little weight with Bush and Rubio. NextGen Climate, run by billionaire Tom Steyer, poured $16 million into the Florida governor's race last year to defeat Scott and campaign for climate-change policies, but Scott was still reelected.

Rubio has said climate change is real but remains skeptical that humans contributed to it, despite broad agreement among scientists that global warming has accelerated due to the burning of fossil fuels. Bush has not spoken about the issue recently but his spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal last month that he too questions to what extent humans are to blame for climate change.

Following the report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Gov. Scott has denied that any gag order exists but won't go into specifics. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that another Florida scientist was told to reword "climate change" in one of her studies.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson at odds over GOP senators' letter to Iran


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of 47 Republican senators who signed an "open letter" to Iran on Monday warning that any nuclear-power deal reached with the Obama administration wouldn't last.

The U.S. government is still negotiating with Tehran over a potential agreement. he three top potential GOP presidential contenders in the Senate -- Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- all signed the letter, which critics decried the one-page letter as improper, partisan interference by the Senate.

Among them was Rubio's Florida counterpart, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said on the Senate floor Tuesday that the letter was an effort to "try to cut the legs off from underneath the president and his administration in trying to reach an agreement to avert a nuclear bomb."

Here's the video of Nelson's speech:


Mason-Dixon poll: Marco Rubio leads Democrats if he runs for Senate reelection


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would be favored to win if he were to seek reelection next year rather than run for president, a new Florida poll has found.

The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows the Republican with ample leads over two potential Democratic challengers, U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston (53-36 percent) and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter (50-38 percent).

While Rubio's advantage is hardly surprising -- he is a well-known incumbent -- it's interesting to note that Murphy polled better than the better known Wasserman Schultz. Thirty-six percent of respondents viewed the congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair unfavorably and 19 percent unfavorably. Murphy's unfavorable number was only 3 percent.

While Murphy has indicated he plans to run regardless of whether Rubio seeks the presidency, Wasserman Schultz has not.

Should Rubio leave the Senate seat, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater would lead the GOP race 45-35 percent over Wasserman Schultz and 46-32 percent of Murphy. 

The poll did not include any other possible Republican candidates, though several are said to be mulling runs if the seat opens. The telephone survey of 800 registered voters was conducted from March 3-5. It has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

WSJ/NBC News poll: Marco Rubio does well among GOP primary voters

via @learyreports

Some encouraging news for Marco Rubio in the new WSJ/NBC News poll, which find 56 percent of GOP primary voters open to supporting him.

Fifty-three percent of GOP primary voters said they could see supporting Scott Walker; 52 percent Mike Huckabee; Jeb Bush and Rand Paul both got 49 percent.

From the story:

Resistance within the party to Messrs. Rubio and Walker is far lower than for Mr. Bush: Some 26% said they couldn’t see themselves supporting Mr. Rubio, and 17% said so of the Wisconsin governor.

The good news for Mr. Bush is that he has nearly a year to reshape his image before voting begins, and none of his likely rivals shows signs of running away with the race.

In fact, he would begin the 2016 campaign in much the same place that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney began the 2012 race in which he locked up the nomination after a long primary slog.

Full WSJ story here (subscription required).

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 09, 2015

Marco Rubio says he can raise enough money to run for president

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio said he's already decided he can raise the money to run for president.

"I feel confident that we’re going to meet that number and exceed it, I do and I wouldn’t run for president if I didn’t think we could. So for me that decisions been made," Rubio said this afternoon on FOX News' Your World with Neil Cavuto. "To me the decision that I’d love to make is where’s the best place for me to serve this country that I owe so much to. Is it to continue in the Senate? Or is it to run for president? And if I decided it’s to run for president, I’m confident we can put together the kind of credible campaign that will allow us to win.”

He did not explicity address the $50 million floated by Cavuto, but Rubio said it was in the range.

Rubio also continued his argument that he is better positioned than governors to be president due to national security issues. And he tried to knock down talk that he's like another sweet-talking first-term Senator.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio says he can raise enough money to run for president" »