- Marco Rubio has announced a re-election bid on Wednesday for his Senate seat in the battleground state.
- He is being criticized for failing to keep the pledge he made to retire and not seek reelection as he ran for president.
- During his announcement, he was very vocal about his dislike of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
- Rubio promised to oppose Trump on any issue he didn’t agree with in the Senate.
In a complete about-face, Sen. Marco Rubio officially announced an 11th-hour reelection bid Wednesday, making him the instant frontrunner in a key battleground state.
In an interview with POLITICO Wednesday, the first-term senator declared he’s ready to take on both Republican and Democratic opponents and even his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, if he has to.
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Rubio said the election – which could decide control of the U.S. Senate — was too important for him to keep his pledge to retire. Or, for that matter, for him to keep quiet if Trump continues to make inflammatory statements or advocates “bad policies.”
“It’s been well-documented that I have significant disagreements with Donald Trump on his failure to articulate policies and many of the things that he has said, especially about women and minorities,” Rubio said in the interview, mentioning Trump’s name unprompted. “And so I’m prepared to be a senator that will encourage him to make the right decisions, but also stand up to the bad decisions and the bad policies if he’s elected president.”
Rubio, who dropped out of the presidential race after Trump thrashed him in Florida’s March 15 primary, didn’t shy away from directly criticizing Trump for drawing attention to the Mexican heritage of an Indiana-born judge who’s presiding over a civil-fraud trial against Trump University.
“All I can tell you is that they’re not comments that I agree with. They went beyond the pale. I think that that judge is fully American whose experience is not unlike mine,” Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said when asked about Trump’s comments concerning the judge.
“I most certainly strongly disagree and I found what he said offensive and I’m glad he stopped saying it,” Rubio added.
Rubio made clear, though, that he believes Hillary Clinton would be worse than Trump: “He’s not running against George Washington.”
The senator’s decision to run for reelection was widely hailed by Washington and Florida GOP elites who see him as their best hope to keep his seat. They had lobbied Rubio for months to reconsider his pledge on the presidential campaign trail to retire in January if he lost his White House bid.
“Every day I’ve been asking him and talking to him,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed he leads his Democratic opponents, House members Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, by 7 and 8 points, respectively.
In discussing Grayson, Rubio singled out a House ethics investigation into a hedge fund he ran and suggested the Orlando congressman was corrupt.
“Alan Grayson, if he were elected, the chances are he would probably be indicted in his first couple years in office,” Rubio said. “He has huge ethical issues.”
As for Murphy, Rubio dismissed him as a spoiled rich kid.
“Patrick Murphy is someone who is not prepared to be U.S. senator considering the magnitude of what we’re facing now,” Rubio said. “He has no significant achievements in his entire life. He has been handed everything, from the moment he was born: his first job, his second job. And now his family and his father want to buy him a Senate seat.”
Both Murphy and Grayson have attacked Rubio for his positions on gay rights, guns and for breaking his pledge not to run for reelection. Before facing either of them, Rubio still has to win his Aug. 30 primary against political newcomer Carlos Beruff, who bashed Rubio as the choice of Washington power brokers.
Rubio hit back in the interview by pointing out that Beruff had backed his 2010 Senate-race opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist, after the then-governor left the GOP.
“He has a right to run. And we’ll have a campaign. I can tell you that in the Florida primary, the only person that supported Charlie Crist after he changed parties was him,” Rubio said. “So he’ll have to answer for that.”
Rubio acknowledges that he has a tough race ahead and he has some explaining to do for changing his mind. The deadline to file for office is Friday.
“I’m aware of the political arguments of this. You’re running for reelection when you said you wouldn’t in the most-unusual national political cycle in modern American history, in the most-competitive state in the country, against a well-funded Democrat and other Republicans saying they’re going to run,” Rubio said.
Asked if he’d run for president in four years, Rubio said “You know what? I’m done. I’m done making statements like that one way or another. I’m coming back to the Senate with full energy because I believe that our next senator has to be someone that, no matter who’s elected president, will encourage them to make the right decisions and stand up to them when they’re making the wrong decisions — even if they’re from your own party.”