Rubio Joins Growing List of Presidential Hopefuls, Setting Up Showdown With Bush
FlaglerLive | April 13, 2015
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced Monday he will run for president in 2016, setting off a cascade of political dominos that could reshape Florida’s congressional delegation and its Legislature.
Speaking before a cheering crowd at Miami’s Freedom Tower, the 43-year-old Rubio presented himself as a new leader in a field sure to be full of familiar faces — including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.
“Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America,” said Rubio, R-Fla. “But we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”
Rubio enters what is likely to be a crowded GOP field. Two fellow senators — Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — have already announced bids for the White House, and Bush has said he’s exploring the idea. Several other GOP figures are mentioned as possible candidates.
Democrats wasted no time lacerating Rubio, who rose from state House speaker to U.S. senator in two years, winning a three-way campaign in 2010 against then-Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, and then-Congressman Kendrick Meek, a Democrat.
“As far as self-serving vanity projects go, Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign should win a prize,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement issued by the party. “After failing to win a majority of the vote in 2010’s Tea Party wave, Rubio bailed on Floridians, and now embodies everything voters hate about Washington — partisan dysfunction and placing the needs of the wealthiest few above the middle class.”
A primary showdown between Rubio and Bush could cause friction in Tallahassee, where the GOP dominates state government. But Rubio’s decision to skip a run for re-election — at least for now — and state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s decision over the weekend to forego a bid for Rubio’s seat could have far-reaching implications in the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C.
With Atwater out of the race, Republicans lose the CFO’s well-known fundraising ability and are unlikely to have an established statewide figure running for the seat. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and several members of the state’s congressional delegation have all been mentioned as possible GOP candidates.
“No one would have a marked advantage, I don’t think, at this point. … It’s an uphill climb for everybody,” said J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich, a Republican consultant.
Stipanovich also floated the possibility that if Rubio’s presidential bid fails to catch on, he could revisit the possibility of running for re-election.
Top Democrats have largely united around Congressman Patrick Murphy, who won a second term in November with almost 60 percent of the vote in a swing Southeast Florida district — though Congressman Alan Grayson, a liberal firebrand from Central Florida, has made noises about entering the race. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was giddy over the possibility of a crowded GOP field.
“While Democrats were confident in our ability to beat Marco Rubio, the Florida Senate race is now a toss-up and the map just became increasingly complicated for Washington Republicans clinging to their endangered majority,” said Tom Lopach, executive director of the campaign arm for Senate Democrats. “Republicans are now staring down a potentially messy primary in the Sunshine State, and we’re confident that in 2016 Floridians will elect a new Democratic senator who always puts Florida first.”
But Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist who advised Atwater, said he didn’t believe a packed field is likely.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a 10-way fight,” Wilson said. “I think it will resolve itself reasonably quickly.”
Even a relatively small primary field could shake up Tallahassee. Any number of Florida congressmen leaving their seats to run for Rubio’s Senate seat would likely prompt some state lawmakers to run for Congress, also opening up those legislative districts. And if Lopez-Cantera should win election to the Senate seat, it would leave Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a replacement.
When former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned in 2013, it took Scott 10 months to select Lopez-Cantera.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida