June 06, 2016

'It's wrong,' Rubio says of Trump attack on judge

via @learyreports

“It’s wrong,” Marco Rubio said Monday of Donald Trump’s comments about an American-born judge with Mexican heritage who is overseeing a suit into Trump University.

Rubio, who had a sit-down interview with WFTV,provides another prominent Republican voice against Trump’s remarks, widely seen as racist.

"I think it's wrong," Rubio said. "He needs to stop saying it.”

“I don't think it reflects well on the Republican Party. I don't think it reflects well on us as a nation,” Rubio said according to tweets from reporter Christopher Heath. “This man is an American.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio's campaign advisers form new firm

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's top political advisers have formed a new political consulting firm to try to adapt to the age of Donald Trump, The New York Times reports. The consultants compared Trump's successful campaign to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, to Democrat Hillary Clinton's:

“She is fighting a conventional war and he is fighting an asymmetrical war, and I don’t think that bodes well for her,” said Terry Sullivan, a Republican strategist. Mr. Sullivan has a unique perspective on the question, as the former manager of Senator Marco Rubio’s vanquished presidential campaign.

Mr. Sullivan; the former Rubio communications adviser Alex Conant; and a lawyer for Mr. Rubio, Will Holley, had reached out to me to discuss their new consulting firm, Firehouse Strategies. It’s based on the premise that Mr. Trump has rewritten the rules of modern communications strategy, and candidates and corporations need to take heed.

The primary lesson: “The solution is always more content, not less,” Mr. Sullivan said.

More here.

Mason-Dixon poll: Half of Florida voters want Marco Rubio to run for Senate again

@PatriciaMazzei

Nearly half of Florida voters want U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to seek re-election, according to a new poll that finds a messy Republican primary field to replace him if he doesn't.

The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found 49 percent of respondents -- including 77 percent of Republicans -- think Rubio should run for a second term.

"If he decides to do so, he would clearly be the strongest candidate, as none of the current contenders appears to have caught fire with state voters," pollster J. Brad Coker said in a statement.

More than 40 percent of voters are undecided in the Democratic and Republican primaries. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter leads U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando by 31-23 percent, with first-time candidate Pam Keith at 3 percent.

On the Republican side, five candidates remain mostly unknown. Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff is ahead with 17 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores with 13 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach with 10 percent, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami with 9 percent and Orlando defense contractor Todd Wilcox with 2 percent.

The poll's error margin is plus-or-minus 5 percentage points. Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 registered voters from May 31-June 2, over-sampling 400 likely Democratic voters and 400 likely Republican voters for the Senate-race questions.

Rubio chose not to run for re-election in order to run for president. But he's no longer vying for the White House, and he's got no clear successor. Candidates can qualify for the race through June 24.

June 05, 2016

Rubio blocks confirmation of judge he nominated

via @jayhweaver

After his failed run for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio returned to Washington with a pledge to “finish strong” and complete his work in Congress.

But the Florida lawmaker, who is leaving Congress in early January, has conspicuously left undone one legislative item: clearing the way for the Senate confirmation hearing of Miami lawyer Mary Barzee Flores. She is a former state judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama to a vacancy on South Florida’s federal bench more than a year ago.

This past week, his office made it abundantly clear for the first time that Rubio — who along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson had recommended her for the judgeship — is blocking her nomination for reasons critics say boil down to “extreme political partisanship.”

Rubio’s office told the Miami Herald that he recently issued so-called blue slips triggering confirmation hearings for three Obama-nominated federal judges in Central and North Florida with Republican backgrounds. But the senator refuses to do the same for Barzee Flores, calling her the “wrong person” for the South Florida federal judgeship, without providing specific reasons about her legal credentials.

“Senator Rubio recently returned the blue slip for three judges to fill other vacancies throughout Florida, but he will not return the blue slip on Ms. Barzee Flores,” Rubio’s office said in a statement, which was released to other news media after the Herald requested an update on Barzee Flores’ confirmation hearing.

More here.

June 03, 2016

Rubio, Curbelo press GOP on Zika funding: 'Mosquitoes bite Republicans'

@PatriciaMazzei

Consider this a warning from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to members of Congress running for re-election this fall: You might have to cut your campaign short for an emergency vote on Zika-prevention funding if lawmakers don't act now.

"Members of Congress, in the middle of their campaigns, are going to have to stop what they're doing and fly back to Washington," Rubio predicted. "The public is going to be very upset."

The Florida Republican laid out the worst-case political scenario Friday in his Doral office, where he gave another news conference about the mosquito-borne virus threat.

Congress is on recess. It took a break before passing legislation setting aside money to combat the disease. Rubio and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican who joined him Friday, back President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion. Rubio declared himself "borderline extremely angry" that no vote had been finalized.

"Mosquitoes bite Republicans, and I know they bite Democrats and independents and vegetarians," he said.

Continue reading "Rubio, Curbelo press GOP on Zika funding: 'Mosquitoes bite Republicans'" »

May 29, 2016

Rubio said sorry to Trump over 'small hands' remark

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio privately apologized to Donald Trump for talking about his small hands during a presidential debate earlier this year, the Florida senator said in a reflective television interview that aired Sunday.

"I said, you know, I'm sorry that I said that," Rubio told CNN's Jake Tapper. "That's not who I am, and I shouldn't have done it. And I didn't say it in front of the cameras. I didn't want any political benefit."

In late February, leading up to the Super Tuesday election contests, then-candidate Rubio had mocked Trump's hands -- "You know what they say about men with small hands" -- which prompted Trump at a subsequent debate to memorably defend his size: "I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee."

Rubio, who is now backing Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, told Tapper the comment "embarrassed" his family, and he apologized to Trump at a later debate.

"It's not who I am," Rubio said. "You did it almost in a sense of, you know, nothing -- at this point--  nothing is working. I mean, this guy is out there every day mocking people, saying horrible things about people, but if you respond to him somehow you're hitting below the belt? And that was my sense of it at the time."

"I ended up hurting myself, not him."

Rubio said making fun of Trump didn't cost him the election but didn't help. The more pivotal moment, he said, came in a New Hampshire debate, when then-rival Chris Christie eviscerated Rubio for sounding like a programmed robot.

"It was a mistake," Rubio said of failing to adjust his reponse and take Christie on. Had he done so, "we would have had a better result in New Hampshire." Trump might have ended up the nominee regardless, but the post-New Hampshire race trajectory "would have been dramatically different."

Rubio also told Tapper he didn't realize when he took on Jeb Bush at an earlier debate that their exchange would be viewed as a smackdown of Bush.

"I didn't take any great pleasure in like, 'Oh, I really stuck it to him,'" Rubio said. "I didn't even think it was that big a deal during the debate. It was only after that I realized people had kind of built it up into this moment."

May 28, 2016

Marco Rubio holds fundraising call for Carlos Lopez-Cantera

@PatriciaMazzei

A nugget from our story Friday about the Republican Party wooing Marco Rubio to remain in the U.S. Senate is the latest and perhaps most salient sign that Rubio has no intention of seeking re-election: Rubio held a fundraising call for Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the friend he's hoping will replace him.

So why does the hullabaloo around Rubio continue?

Perhaps, as we note in the story: In a crowded GOP primary field where no candidate has broken out, Lopez-Cantera might benefit from building up Rubio in the eyes of party leaders ahead of a Rubio endorsement in his favor.

More here.

May 27, 2016

Key GOP super PAC says it'd back Marco Rubio re-election

via @learyreports

Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Mitch McConnell, says it would back Marco Rubio if he decided to run for re-election — the latest sign in a coordinated effort to woo the Florida Republican.

“Florida is a huge financial commitment. We felt confident about betting on Rubio back in 2010 and would do it again in a heartbeat, but right now it's hard to imagine making that same investment without him as our candidate,”  Steven Law of SLF said in a statement Friday.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Having foregone Senate run, Jeff Atwater wants Marco Rubio to run again

via @adamsmithtimes

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a Republican who may well have cleared the field of any primary challenger had he run for U.S. Senate, has met with every leading Republican running and says he admires all of them. That said, he really wants Marco Rubio to  "pull aside some quiet time and contemplate" running for another term.

"He is the best person to serve in the United States Senate, and he would be the best candidate to prevail," said Atwater.

Rubio has said he intends to return to the private sector, but he is under heavy pressure to run for reelection from Republicans worried about losing the seat.

The CFO has known Rubio for 16 years, served with him in the Florida House, and said Rubio was "absolutely genuine" when he announced he would not seek another term so he could give all he had to the presidential campaign. In that same genuine spirit, Atwater said, Rubio should consider the many conservative leaders urging him to run. The talk that Rubio did not like serving in the senate doesn't ring true, Atwater said.

"Number one, I believe he is the man who would be the most effective senator.. And two I deeply wish us to maintain this  seat, and I believe there is no better candidate  to ensure that than Marco Rubio," Atwater told Buzz Friday morning. "No one would see it as anything other than Marco being genuine from the start. He would be answering our call."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Carlos Lopez-Cantera responds to Marco Rubio re-election chatter

@PatriciaMazzei

All the talk about Republicans nudging Marco Rubio to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate has got to be getting into Carlos Lopez-Cantera's head -- right?

No, he told the Miami Herald outside a Miami-Dade Republican Party meeting Thursday night.

"Marco's already said that he's not running for re-election," he said. 

That's true. And Rubio has named Lopez-Cantera, Florida's lieutenant governor and his close friend, his preferred successor.

Yet when he was asked Thursday what he'd do if Lopez-Cantera weren't running, Rubio refused to answer, calling the scenario a "hypothetical." Donald Trump, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, later tweeted that Rubio should run.

Doesn't that bother Lopez-Cantera, who -- like his fellow Republicans in the crowded Senate race -- has struggled to break out of the pack?

"Not at all," he said. "Marco's been really great. Obviously, he's my friend, and he's been very generous with his time and his counsel and his support. He did an event for me a couple of weeks ago. No, it doesn't bother me. A lot of people clearly trust his judgment and like him, as I do."