April 12, 2015

On Marco Rubio and the Freedom Tower

@PatriciaMazzei

Downtown Miami's Freedom Tower, where Marco Rubio will inaugurate his presidential campaign Monday, is steeped in symbolism for Cuban exiles even if they didn't arrive there from the island to get processed by the U.S. government. The tower on Biscayne Boulevard was also where exiles would pick up food for their families.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado remembers being 12 or 13 years old and lining up at the building.

"They'd give out cheese and butter and powdered milk," he said. "I used to go with my mother. There'd be canned meat and everyone would share recipes so we wouldn't have to eat the same breaded Spam every day."

Of course, Rubio's family doesn't share the typical exile story. His parents left Cuba in 1956, before Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, and briefly returned to the island before settling in the U.S. in 1962.

Rubio still refers to his family as "exiles." Miami Cuban Americans generally agree that any of their countrymen who couldn't return home was exiled. But Rubio had embellished his family history on his official Senate website and was forced to revise it after news reports about his parents' immigration records. That's hardly the incident Rubio's campaign wants people to remember during Monday's launch.

Rubio has long been a protector of the Freedom Tower. In 2003, Miami-Dade County lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives tried to secure $7 million in state funding to help Miami Dade College (then community college) purchase the building. Rubio was House majority leader, and the funding didn't go through the usual budget process.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who will now have to jostle with Rubio over the presidential nomination, opposed the earmark, known in the Florida Capitol as a "turkey."

"It is certainly not a turkey," Rubio countered at the time. "Just because a project maybe didn't go through the proper channels doesn't mean that it is unworthy of state funding."

Bush prevailed. The college didn't get ownership of the historic building until 2005.

The incident speaks to Rubio's interest in the building, but also to his history earmarking dollars for local projects, something that has fallen out of favor in Republican political rhetoric and been banned in Congress.

Still, it's what the Freedom Tower represents -- a beacon for people seeking a better life -- that Rubio will be channeling Monday. And with an older generation of Cuban Americans such as Mayor Regalado giving poignant recollections about the building's meaning, it's likely that's the message outsiders will remember.

Marco Rubio hopes relationships in early primary states pay off

@PatriciaMazzei

He’s campaigned with Joni Ernst in Iowa, cut a TV ad for Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, befriended Jim DeMint in South Carolina and reminisced about growing up in Nevada.

Now Florida Sen. Marco Rubio must figure out how to turn his ties to the nation’s first four primary and caucus states into victories — or at least not failures — in the 2016 Republican presidential race.

In his four years in the Senate, Rubio has strategically built relationships and paid visits to crucial early states in the nominating contest, creating a base of support in case he ultimately decided to run. He has scheduled a campaign announcement for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

“I will announce whether I will run for president, re-election to the Senate — or commissioner of the National Football League,” Rubio said in jest Friday in a Nashville speech to the National Rifle Association. There was laughter. The NFL is “probably a little too powerful for me,” added the avid football fan.

Joking aside, Rubio and his team of advisers have long planned for this moment, introducing the freshman senator to a national audience of conservative voters who could create a path for him to win, or at least do well, in a crowded GOP candidate field.

“Assuming he runs for president, we’ll intend to compete all over,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said last week.

More here.

From the Miami Herald archives: Marco Rubio's trajectory

@PatriciaMazzei

We've unearthed stories from the Miami Herald archives covering Marco Rubio's political career, ahead of his planned 2016 presidential campaign kickoff Monday. They're available in timeline form here, and listed individually below. We limited ourselves to stories that were previously unavailable online.

April 16, 1998: Rubio wins seat on West Miami Commission

Jan. 12, 2000: Rubio edges Zayon in GOP runoff

March 9, 2003: Marco Rubio makes mark as GOP wonder boy

March 4, 2007: Rubio's goal to change political culture

April 5, 2009: Rubio registers to run for Senate

Feb. 11, 2010: Rubio has fundraiser, rally at familiar venue

Feb. 25, 2010: Rubio charged personal bills on GOP credit card

April 18, 2010: Marco Rubio, the true believer

June 20, 2010: Foreclosure suit shines spotlight again on Rubio's personal finances

Nov. 3, 2010: 'Son of exiles' rises to U.S. senator

Oct. 2, 2011: The inside story of Univision vs. Rubio

Jan. 28, 2012: In Miami, Rubio steals the show

Aug. 31, 2012: Marco Rubio cements status in GOP

April 11, 2015

Politico: Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush sit next to each other on flight to Miami

From Politico:

In a sign of how literally close they are, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio sat next to each other on the same Friday night flight to Miami from Nashville, where they separately spoke at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.

The coincidental encounter had a just-like-old-times feel to it, with the one-time mentor and one-time protégé talking like the friends they are – a stark contrast to the tensions being expressed by their top supporters, a source first told POLITICO.

“Jeb and Marco are friends. Jeb likes Marco and Marco has a great sense of humor,” the source said of the two likely presidential candidates.

Neither Bush nor Rubio’s spokesmen would comment for the record on what the two spoke about on the American Airlines flight 4229, which departed Nashville at 5:29 p.m. and arrived in Miami at 8:49 p.m. Aides said the two were serendipitously seated in the same row and decided to sit next to each other after an aide moved to make way. The two spoke for the entire three-hour flight.

More here.

April 10, 2015

Marco Rubio's top donors to meet Sunday night in Coral Gables

@PatriciaMazzei

Top supporters key to launching Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid -- deep-pocketed donors -- are expected to attend the Florida Republican's event Monday at downtown Miami's Freedom Tower.

But they will meet first Sunday night at the Coral Gables home of Bernie Navarro and his wife, Claudia -- not to write big checks but to mingle and discuss campaign strategy.

Navarro, the immediate past president of the Latin Builders Association, is a longtime friend of Rubio's. He is planning to host a stand-alone fundraiser later this month.

"Marco and I have been friends since before politics, when we were eager-beaver young guys," Navarro told the Miami Herald. 

Rubio is not expected to attract as many dollars as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has held fund-raisers across the country drawing much of the GOP establishment. His reported first-quarter goal was $100 million, though Bush's circle has pushed back on that number. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy last week, has already raised an eye-popping $31 million.

Rubio will need to woo enough donors to make him a strong contender in early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He already has the support of Miami billionaire auto magnet Norman Braman, who won't confirm a reported commitment of $10 million.

Navarro wouldn't say how much he's hoping to raise for his friend: "Whatever he asks, I will do," he said. The two met through Republican circles before Rubio was on the West Miami City Commission -- a position he won in 1998 -- and referred to the senator as "family."

Marco Rubio: from West Miami to the White House?

@PatriciaMazzei

They can’t pinpoint the moment, exactly, when they knew Marco Rubio would run for president. Maybe when he became one of Mitt Romney’s most popular ambassadors during the 2012 campaign. Maybe after his improbable 2010 U.S. Senate election when he drew comparisons to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Maybe the emotional day in 2008 when he bid farewell as the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

No matter. The people who grew up with Rubio in South Florida’s bare-knuckled politics, who believed in his ambitious rise, who helped shield him from ever getting so bruised that a national candidacy would be impossible, say it was only a question of when the Republican son of Cuban immigrants would aim for the White House.

“The first day I met him, I knew big things were waiting for him,” said Rebeca Sosa, the Miami-Dade County commissioner and former West Miami mayor who took Rubio under her wing in his first race, for city commission in 1998. “Not president, right then, but big things.”

Former state Rep. Ralph Arza said he told Rubio in the Florida Capitol in 2003 or 2004 that he had a “premonition” Rubio would someday seek the presidency. Visiting his old friend in the U.S. Capitol about a year ago, Arza said Rubio asked him about his old hunch.

“Do I win?” Rubio asked.

Rubio, a 43-year-old married father of four, is poised to kick off his 2016 Republican presidential campaign at 5:30 p.m. Monday at downtown Miami’s Freedom Tower, the Ellis Island for Cuban exiles.

More here.

Fact-checking Sen. Marco Rubio

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who used his conservative cred and personal story about the American dream to catapult to one of the GOP’s top young Hispanic stars, is expected to announce Monday that he will run for president in 2016.

Rubio, 43, will make his announcement at 5:30 p.m. at the Freedom Tower in Miami, a building the U.S. government used to process Cuban refugees after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.

His announcement marks a rapid political ascent for Rubio, a former Florida House speaker. At age 39, he won one of Florida’s most dramatic political upsets when his surging candidacy for Senate prompted then Gov. Charlie Crist to abandon his party and become an independent in 2010. Rubio was part of the successful Republican wave that year and won his first statewide race.

Rubio could face his former mentor Gov. Jeb Bush who is exploring a bid for president.

After he was elected in 2010, Rubio became a national figure with an inspiring background as the son of working-class Cuban immigrants. He was part of a bipartisan group that led the Senate to approve an immigration bill in 2013. (The House wouldn’t bring the bill up for a vote, though.)

Rubio took the spotlight again in December 2014 to denounce President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba after five decades. He released a book, American Dreams, in January.

But even as his hopes for immigration legislation were dashed, Rubio refashioned himself as a prominent GOP figure who could talk with expertise on a long list of topics. We’ve fact-checked Rubio 85 times on a variety of claims including about climate changeCommon CoreCubathe federal health care lawforeign affairs,gunspovertyspace and technology.

Out of Rubio’s 85 ratings, he has received 16 percent True, 25 percent Mostly True, 20 percent Half True, 25 percent Mostly False; 12 percent False, and 2 percent Pants on Fire.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story. 

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio speak at NRA event today

Republican presidential contenders will speak to a welcoming crowd at the National Rifle Association’s annual leadership forum on Friday. The guest list features almost every GOP hopeful:

  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

  • Ben Carson, former head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital;

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas;

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.;

  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee;

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal;

  • Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry;

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla;

  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.;

  • Real estate developer Donald Trump

  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

(Notably missing from the list is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who announced his presidential campaign April 7.)

We’ll be watching their convention speeches for facts to check; email us your thoughts at truthometer@politifact.com. For now, here’s some claims we’ve checked about the NRA and from previous conventions.

At last year’s NRA convention, Rubio said, "No other country has a constitutional right" like the Second Amendment. It turns out that Mexico and Guatemala have the right to bear arms in their constitutions, but the Second Amendment is unique because it is the only one that doesn’t include restrictive conditions within the constitutional language. PolitiFact Florida rated this claim Mostly True.

Turn to Angie Drobnic Holan's preview from PolitiFact.

April 09, 2015

Marco Rubio's presidential bid gets a super PAC

via @learyreports

Supporters of Marco Rubio today announced a Super PAC that will back up his run for president, giving the Florida Republican a way to take in unlimited donations.

Conservative Solutions PAC will be run by Warren Tompkins, a respected political strategist and veteran of seven Republican presidential primaries. 

“This race will be won by the candidate with the best vision for where to take this nation and the resources to ensure that message is heard," Tompkins, who has worked with Rubio before, said in a statement. "Marco has the vision – few have laid out in as much detail where they’d like to lead this country – and we’re going to spend the next two years ensuring that the resources are there and used to effectively share that vision with voters."

Read the PAC's news release after the jump.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio's presidential bid gets a super PAC" »