- - Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio has announced a change of heart. Despite a promise not to run for re-election, despite a promise that his next stop would be the private sector, the lure of continuing to feed at the public trough has proven too strong. In what ranks among the lowest political justification in recent memory, Mr. Rubio is using the terror attack on a gay club in Orlando as the rationale for his return.

It’s been a tough year for Mr. Rubio. He dramatically underperformed in the 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes. A third-place finish in Iowa, a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire and an overwhelming defeat in his own home state closed the door on his hopes for moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After being forced out the only remaining question was what his future held. Perhaps the best place to begin a discussion of his future is by looking at his past.

Several years back, I was invited by a mutual friend of Mr. Rubio’s and mine to a fundraiser for the then little-known state legislator who had decided to run for the U.S. Senate. He was taking on a popular sitting governor in his own party. At the time, Mr. Rubio was polling about 4 percent and his name ID wasn’t much higher.

The year was 2010 and a young, sharp Marco Rubio seemed a refreshing change to a Republican Party that had chosen a tired old relic up as their presidential nominee in 2008. He appeared to be a gifted speaker, he said all the things the newly minted Tea Party wanted to hear and as a result got money, volunteers and attention.

Among the bold statements Mr. Rubio made in an effort to boost his conservative credentials was his absolute commitment to enforcing the border and his absolute opposition to anything resembling amnesty for those who had entered the U.S. illegally.

Mr. Rubio appeared on my radio program and stated emphatically “Pathway to citizenship is just another way of saying amnesty … and I’m opposed to any form of amnesty.” There was no ambiguity whatsoever. Conservatives swooned.

Mr. Rubio went on to dominate a three way Senate race and win with 49%, nearly 20 points more than his closest competitor. A GOP star was born.

It didn’t take long for Sen. Rubio to discover he didn’t like the Senate. In December of his first year in Washington, when asked about the highlight of his time so far, Mr. Rubio responded “I can’t really think of a single high point.” Despite the lack of enthusiasm, Mr. Rubio’s combination of youth and intellect endeared him to much of the national media.

By early 2013, Time magazine had put Mr. Rubio on its cover and declared him the “savior” of the Republican Party. The GOP was so high on the young, telegenic Latino from a swing state they enlisted him to provide the official televised response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. It was this address that showed the first public crack in Mr. Rubio’s armor.

The content of Mr. Rubio’s State of the Union response is forgotten to history. What will long be remembered, however, was his not-ready-for-primetime delivery. Clearly nervous, the young senator couldn’t seem to get enough moisture in his mouth to speak clearly. At one point he lunged across the television screen to grab - and chug - a bottled water. Mr. Rubio laughed it off afterwards, but it was an early red flag that maybe Miami’s favorite son wasn’t really qualified for the major leagues.

The next tip came in the form of a colossal flip-flop. Mr. Rubio ran point for a group of senators known as the Gang of Eight, pushing legislation that did exactly the opposite of what he had promised the voters of Florida. The legislation provided amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens. The “savior” of the GOP explained the inexplainable from the Senate floor this way. “Here in America, those who once had no hope will give their kids the chance at a life they always wanted for themselves. Here in America generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass. And that’s why I support this reform,”

Conservatives were stunned. Mr. Rubio’s popularity plummeted. The senator had not only shown he was nervous on the big stage, he demonstrated the affliction that so many elected officials share. He’d lost touch with his own constituency and was now aligned with those whose primary point of reference came from inside the beltway.

By 2014, Mr. Rubio began regularly missing votes. 87 of the 100 Senators voted more often than he did. He missed 10 percent of Senate votes. He also was a no-show for much of his committee work, missing half of the 68 hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee.

The attendance numbers got even worse in 2015. Mr. Rubio missed 35 percent of the 339 votes in the Senate that year, ranking him dead last. Mr. Rubio missed more votes than any other senator.

One of his close friends was quoted as saying Mr. Rubio hated the Senate. Asked about it by a reporter, Mr. Rubio himself responded “I don’t know if hate is the right word. I’m frustrated.” His lack of attendance, his griping, both public and private, left no doubt that being a senator wasn’t something he valued.

It came as no surprise then, when Marco Rubio announced his intent to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. In October, long before the first primary ballot was cast, Mr. Rubio was clear about his future options. “In November of next year, I will either be the president of the United States or a private citizen again, because I have a sense of urgency.”

He may have had a sense of urgency, but voters could never seem to get beyond Mr. Rubio’s giant flip on amnesty. His once heralded public speaking ability turned into a liability when rival Donald Trump pointed out the young senator’s habit of memorizing three or four lines and repeating them ad nauseam. Despite consistently poor showings, Mr. Rubio refused to drop out.

In early March, shortly before the primary in his home state of Florida, Mr. Rubio told the media this; “I’m running for president of the United States. I intend to see that process through to the end. I intend to be the nominee. If that doesn’t work out, I’ve told everyone very clearly: January of next year I will either be the president of the United States or I will be a private citizen. And if I never hold elected office again, I’m comfortable with that.”

After losing Florida to Mr. Trump by 19 points, Mr. Rubio realized it was time to call it quits and reiterated to reporters his plans to go into the private sector. “I’ll finish out my term in the Senate. We’re going to work really hard here. We have some things we want to achieve. Then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

A doubtful public and jaded media refused to believe Mr. Rubio could walk away from the power, the prestige and the big paycheck. In response to yet another inquiry in mid-May, Marco Rubio tweeted out the following, “I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”

Apparently it takes more than 10,000 times before we can believe Mr. Rubio.

June brought a dose of reality. The private sector demand for a washed up one-term senator was limited. Mr. Rubio began to put out feelers for re-election. When the tragic terror events occurred in Orlando, he pounced. His attendance in front of the television cameras was far better than his ability to show up on the Senate floor. Within 48 hours of the mass shooting, Mr. Rubio was shamelessly using the senseless deaths for his own benefit. In one of the lowest political moves imaginable, Team Rubio proclaimed that the bullets fired into more than 100 people showed the senator he was still needed in Washington.

Huh?

Marco Rubio has repeatedly exhibited his disdain for the Senate, complaining about the legislative body and failing to show up to committee assignments and Senate votes. He abandoned his promise to his constituents to oppose amnesty and instead led the effort to welcome 12 million people who’s first act on American soil was to break the law.

After telling the public, by his own count, 10,000 times that he would not run again but instead would be a private citizen next year, Rubio has announced his intent to reclaim his Senate seat for another six years.

How can we believe anything the guy says? And what are the chances he’ll show up to vote if re-elected?

Mr. Rubio’s rise on the national stage was brilliant and quick. A study of his time in the Senate, however, shows that his fall has been steady and consistent since 2013 and primarily self inflicted. As for his decision to reconsider, we’re told that GOP leadership has been calling Mr. Rubio for weeks urging him to run again.

Marco Rubio should have taken a page from Nancy Reagan and just said no. His decision reeks of crass politics as usual. Elected officials determining what serves their own needs rather than what best serves the public. Their word, even when repeated 10,000 times, means nothing.

Mr. Rubio should know better and Florida deserves better.

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