By Jim Ellis
June 2, 2016 — As usual, a new Florida political campaign projects as a razor-thin general election contest. The Sunshine State electorate may well again determine the nation’s political fate but this time not only for a presidential campaign. Their open US Senate race could decide which party controls the majority for the upcoming 115th Congress.
Republican leaders, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), are reportedly putting the full court press on incumbent ssfenator and defeated presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) to change his mind about not seeking re-election.
Apparently the leaders are less than pleased with the open race’s development, seeing little from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R), and finding Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) making public pronouncements that he will no longer personally raise money for the campaign. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) had raised over $4 million before the end of March, has the support of important conservative organizations such as the Club for Growth, along with Tea Party grassroots support. But, the leadership feels it may be too easy for the Democrats to paint him as an extremist, thereby lessening his victory chances in the general election.
The Democrats have a primary of their own. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is the party establishment candidate, and presumed nomination race leader. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) captures the hard left and proves more of a base politician than Murphy. Grayson’s hot and sometimes nasty rhetoric often tends to repel people. For example, in the last few days, an exasperated Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) publicly told Grayson that, “I want you to lose.”
With this backdrop, a Rep. Murphy nomination for the race to be decided Aug. 30 could well leave the Republicans in an underdog role to start a shortened general election cycle.
Understanding the importance of this particular election, McConnell, Cornyn, and other rank and file senators are putting the pressure on Rubio to retract his retirement announcement and re-enter the race. Even his former nemesis Donald Trump stated this week that he would like to see Rubio seek re-election. These party leaders clearly believe Rubio would be the strongest person through whom the GOP could hold the seat.
But, is this supposition correct? After all, it was only in mid-March when Trump thrashed Rubio in his own state (46-27 percent, a margin of more than 440,000 Republican votes in the Florida GOP presidential primary), and only a bit earlier when former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush attacked him for not fulfilling the duties of his current office. This latter attack was further highlighted when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn publicly stated that he has never even met Sen. Rubio, even though the former heads one of the state’s major cities and were in office together since 2011.
Assuming that Rubio wants to make another presidential run at some point in the future, and even the senator himself says he will likely run for public office again, is running for the Senate again so quickly too much of a risk considering his newfound negatives? After all, Florida races are some of the most competitive in the country and even Rubio would be no sure bet to win. Therefore, would a loss in the 2016 Senate contest doom him for any future national campaign? It may.
These are all valid points of consideration and lead to the conclusion that Sen. Rubio will not change his mind.