Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 22, 2016.
Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP

Asked to reject NRA money, Rubio avoids the question

Updated

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has earned an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, which means when it comes to casting votes on issues the far-right group cares about, the Florida Republican has been in lock step with the organization.

The NRA, in turn, has shown its appreciation for Rubio’s support by offering plenty of support of its own: in 2016, Rubio received more financial backing from the NRA than any other statewide candidate in the country.

With this in mind, Rubio participated in a forum last night on CNN, in his home state of Florida, where the Republican faced more than a few unwelcome questions – including this one.

…Rubio was asked by junior Cameron Kasky, a prominent face among those driving a nascent student movement to strengthen gun laws, whether he would “accept a single donation from the NRA” going forward.

Rubio avoided the question, saying instead that the NRA “buys into my agenda, I don’t buy into theirs,” which again evoked jeers.

To appreciate how difficult the exchange was for the senator, you’ll have to watch the clip. Note that the young student asked the question twice, though Rubio doesn’t give a direct answer either time.

That said, the Florida Republican, perhaps picking up on the direction of the political winds, tried to find areas of agreement between his agenda and that of those demanding action. For example, Rubio is prepared to raise the age limit on rifle purchases to 21 – it’s currently 18 – and he’s reconsidering his support for high-capacity magazines.

Like many in his party, Rubio is also prepared to ban “bump-stock” modifications to semi-automatic firearms, though Republicans have been saying that since the Las Vegas massacre in October, and nothing’s happened.

I’ve seen some coverage that suggests Rubio deserves some credit for having shown up at last night’s event – a step Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was unwilling to take – knowing that the audience would be filled with local constituents who were less than pleased with his far-right record on guns. Perhaps, though I’m generally disinclined to praise elected officials for being wiling to show up and listen to the people they ostensibly represent.

If the GOP senator really wants to earn praise, he can learn from last night’s experience and cast some votes that would imperil his A+ rating from the NRA. Given what I’ve seen from Rubio over the last eight years, I’m keeping my expectations low.