The Republican race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate has an excitement problem. As in, it doesn’t have much.
At least, that was one of the conclusions that could be drawn from a forum Thursday night in Boca Raton, billed as the first event showcasing all five GOP candidates.
In the end, one of them didn’t show up — and the four who did struggled to energize the room. Some 200 Republicans sat down for dinner at the Boca Raton Marriott. At times, they seemed far more interested in their food than the speakers.
Things got livelier two hours into the event, after the candidates concluded their lengthy stump speeches and fielded two questions each. Funding sanctuary cities? No. Reforming the Veterans Administration? Yes.
Still, if there’s one thing the forum underscored, it’s that none of the Republican candidates have been able to stand out in the crowded field — something public-opinion polls have showed for months. The contenders have time to change that before the Aug. 30 primary election. But the lack of pizzazz explains in part why GOP leaders in Congress have made a last-ditch attempt to recruit Rubio to run for re-election.
However, the former presidential candidate has said he won’t. He’s been fundraising for one of the candidates, his friend and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
In fact, Lopez-Cantera made the only reference to Rubio on Thursday night: “Here’s the Marco Rubio moment,” he said, before taking a sip of water.