by Javier Manjarres
Ever since his David vs. Goliath victory over former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s ascent into the political stratosphere has continued its upward trajectory. And with that higher profile comes an intensified scrutiny that is typically reserved for conservatives whose upward mobility in the political world is considered likely. The Politico recently ran a story that vetted Rubio’s past and the people involved, at least according to the media, who helped him get to where he is now.
While all of the political operatives named in the Politico story had at least some role in Rubio’s ascent, the truth is that it was Rubio who was really the prime mover in his ascent from state legislator to U.S. Senator and political stardom. The advisors mentioned in the Politico story are known as the ‘Three Amigos” among Rubio’s inner circle and former staffers. But now, these “Three Amigos” and one more of their johnny-come-lately “friends” are now Rubio’s gatekeepers, and some are accusing them of looking out first and foremost for themselves and their bottom lines.
During Rubio’s senatorial campaign closed-door strategy sessions, it was Rubio who made the final call and oftentimes scrapped his advisors’ advice and acted on his own political instincts. In light of the intensified scrutiny that Rubio has received of late- one of his advisers explained that Team Rubio was “getting a proctological exam on a daily basis”- Rubio’s political skills are certainly being tested to their limits.
While Rubio’s stature continues to grow, there are also an increasing number of Rubio’s supporters who are very disappointed in him, and their concern is palpable.
Politico‘s story quoted Rubio saying, “I had a pretty long campaign. The people in Florida know exactly who I am.” But do Floridians really know exactly who Rubio is now?
Before Rubio announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate in 2009, there were only a handful of family members and supporters who actually believed in him and were willing to put their necks out on the line for him. During this period, Rubio was pressured to run for Attorney General or Governor and let Charlie Crist run unopposed in the Senate race. Except for Pat Shortridge, Albert Martinez, and his state finance team, everyone was pressuring Rubio to consider the AG position because of the uphill battle that he would have in trying to defeat Governor Crist.
During the early stages of the campaign, Rubio ran a true grassroots campaign that targeted Republicans. Rubio would oftentimes attend small events and walk out with a couple hundred bucks in contributions- these may have been greatly disappointing for most aspiring candidates, but Rubio held his head up and clearly saw that he was in the early stages of a long process.
Because Rubio came across as genuinely engaging and an open book to all he encountered, Rubio became known simply as “Marco”. “Marco fever soon swept the state was like no other in recent history. The base of the Republican party mobilized behind a man who walked and talked like them. Rubio became the man who the grassroots considered one their own, someone whom they felt they could reach out to and was trustworthy enough to represent them.
But like all things in life, this feeling of genuine euphoria among Rubio’s key statewide supporters and true believers seems to have faded after election day.
Towards the end of Rubio’s 2010 Senatorial campaign, there were rumblings from staffers that Rubio’s campaign was ‘hijacked’ by outsiders. While some discounted this notion, others saw this as a warning sign of possible problems in the future.
Rubio was perceived by some to have become distant and dismissive of many of his early hardcore supporters and volunteers. After the campaign ended and Rubio found himself settling into his new Washington, D.C. address, supporters from around the state began to question whether the Marco Rubio that knocked on each one of their doors and had called them simply to say hello or ask them for a favor was the same Rubio that they thought they knew.
This continued throughout the first half of 2011, as Rubio completely discounted the notion that he could possibly have a problem with those early supporters who truly believed in his candidacy and in him as person. According to some of these supporters, Rubio refused to return phone calls, texts, emails, and delegated the responsibility of communicating with these supporters to his staffers.
Unfortunately, Rubio change of posture towards his early supporters turned out to be a consistent one and not a temporary lapse of loyalty on his part. Rubio himself has personally been approached by certain key supporters who have expressed their concerns about what’s happened with him as well as whom he has surrounded himself with.
Rubio was also advised to reach out to some of the staffers and supporters who devoted themselves to his campaign and had felt betrayed by his “self-serving,” and dismissive nature. But in keeping with his non-confrontational demeanor and ‘Hear no Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil’ approach to dealing with people, Rubio did not reach out to those individuals after vowing to do so. Senator Rubio lost a certain degree of respect with a few for failing to “do the right thing,” for not acting when he needed to.
Now, more and more of Rubio’s ‘real’ statewide support team have grown discontented and disappointed. Apparently, there is a running joke around the state of Florida that whenever someone distances themselves from someone, at whatever level is said to be “Pulling a Marco.”
What is truly interesting is the fact that many of Rubio’s early supporters- most of whom do not know one other- have this same common complaint about Rubio. They believe Rubio has gotten what he wanted from them and has forgotten who it is that got him elected.
These supporters are not upset with Rubio, but they do feel that they were duped into supporting someone who they thought was genuine. Some of these supporters in question just shrug it all off and consider Rubio’s ‘rear view mirror’ approach to outreach laughable.
He has become a typical politician that only cares about himself, and has shown us all that he lacks the character that we thought he had. What happened to him, we thought he was one of us? -Grassroots supporter in Sarasota
Now that his name is being thrown around as a possible Vice Presidential nominee, Rubio has apparently gone into stealth mode. Unlike before, Rubio is now very calculating about what issues he addresses, and he appears to speak in a more ‘prepared’ and deliberate manner. Rubio has always joked about President Obama using teleprompters, but could those be not far down the line for the Senator? 😉
Rubio emphatically states that he will not be the VP pick. But listen carefully to his words- he has never stated that he would outright refuse the nod were he to be asked. This is something very compelling that has not been addressed in the media.
Some of Rubio’s close associates have confirmed that the Senator is being groomed for bigger and better things, but would not specify if it was the VP spot or perhaps a 2016 Presidential run.
In spite of all of these concerns, one must give ample consideration to other factors in play. Senator Rubio is by all accounts an extremely busy person in trying to juggle his young children and family obligations in addition to his very active Senate schedule. Perhaps these disgruntled supporters did not consider that once Rubio became a U.S. Senator, he was never going to be as accessible a person to them as he once was, and it’s also a result of Rubio having less time on his hands by uprooting his family to live in both Washington D.C. and in Miami. Rubio needs to be given a bit more slack with his situation, and those few who feel alienated by the freshman Senator perhaps need to check their egos at the door.
Regardless of whether Rubio ultimately moves up the political ladder or not, he will need to shore up his early base of support that was once solidly behind him. Rubio must also learn to engage the small grassroots fires before they become out of control brushfires as is the one that is currently burning among many of his supporters.