Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rubio Running

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio tossed his hat into the ring for the open Senate seat in Florida.

Three months after starting to raise money for a U.S. Senate race, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio on Tuesday confirmed the obvious: He’s a candidate.

Rubio’s announcement made good on his promise not to be cowed by a potential rivalry with Gov. Charlie Crist, the most popular politician in Florida. Crist is expected to announce his political plans after Friday’s final vote by the Legislature on the state budget.

”I don’t think the odds are that long,” Rubio said of his prospects against a potential Crist Senate run. ”Races of this magnitude are decided by who presents a clearer picture of the future, and I intend to do that.”

At a time when the Republican Party is struggling to reinvent itself nationwide, Rubio is seeking to portray himself as a more conservative alternative to the governor. Crist has drawn scorn from some Republicans for supporting President Barack Obama’s spending plan, though polls show most voters support it.

”The more Republicans become less distinguishable from Democrats, the less people will vote for Republicans,” Rubio said.

Brave talk, but if Charlie Crist enters the race, the Republican primary is pretty much over. Mr. Rubio may have name recognition in South Florida, but he probably has a tough row to hoe among the Republicans upstate and in the panhandle, whereas Gov. Crist is popular even among Democrats state-wide. Mr. Rubio is also on the wrong side of history; moving the GOP even further to the right gets less people to vote for Republicans, not because they’re “less distinguishable” from the Democrats.

Then, as Giancarlo Sopo notes at Generation Miami, there’s the question of which Marco Rubio is running for the Senate; the reasonable and bridge-building candidate, or the fear-monger? It depends on what language he’s speaking.

Two Marco Rubios announced their intention to run for Senate today. One Marco Rubio spoke in English and said his campaign will be “based on ideas” and isn’t “against anyone or anything.” The other was a Spanish-speaking Marco Rubio that accused President Obama on Univision of wanting to implement “American socialism here in the United States.” This wouldn’t be the first time you see this linguistic dichotomy. In May of last year, Rubio told former Herald reporter, Rui Ferreira, that Obama was a socialist.

There’s nothing wrong with fine-tuning your message to address the concerns of different constituencies. Politicians from both parties do it all the time. The problem is that Marco Rubio (like other South Florida Republicans) used two fundamentally different tones depending on the language he was speaking in. In English he attempted to sound reasonable, and in Spanish he resorted to hateful fear-mongering.

Apparently, Rubio’s contradictions and political cowardice are bilingual.

Buena suerte, hombre.