About a week ago, Chris Christie made the case that Marco Rubio is “a 44-year-old first-term senator who’s never accomplished anything.” It’s an assessment the Florida Republican’s supporters no doubt disagree with.
Their challenge, however, is explaining why. This morning, Rick Santorum, just 12 hours after the demise of his own presidential campaign, appeared on MSNBC and was asked to name a single Rubio accomplishment from his five years in the U.S. Senate. Santorum made a valiant effort at spin, but he couldn’t think of anything.
Santorum floundered right off the bat when asked to list Rubio’s “top accomplishment” while in office. “Well, I mean, I would just say that this is a guy who’s been able to, No. 1, win a tough election in Florida and pull people together from a variety of different spots. This is a guy that I think can work together with people,” he said. “That’s the thing I like about him the most.”
And while that’s nice, the question was about his accomplishments. So, Santorum was confronted with the question again, and again, and again. Eventually, he responded, “I guess it’s hard to say there are accomplishments.” Santorum blamed congressional “gridlock” on the fact that Congress gets so little done, making it difficult for any senator to develop a record of success.
When the question was expanded to include literally any Rubio bill, whether it passed or not, Santorum pointed to an obscure risk-corridor measure on health care policy – which (a) is an awful policy; and (b) happens to be an example of Rubio taking credit for others’ work.
In other words, pressed to identify anything Rubio has done of value after five years of work on Capitol Hill, his newest high-profile backer came up with one example that turns out to be bogus.
And there’s a very good reason for this.
When it comes to Rubio’s record, there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that the Florida senator expected immigration reform to be his signature accomplishment, before he felt forced to abandon his own bill and betray his former allies. Apparently, running for president as “the co-author of Obama’s amnesty bill” was going to be difficult.
In other words, when Santorum was pressed on the air to name worthwhile work Rubio has done as a senator, the most obvious answer is the one thing Rubio and his allies can’t talk about it.
The second angle to remember is that Rubio is actually burdened with the worst of both worlds: he’s a career politician, running for office six times after his 26th birthday, who’s never actually done anything of significance. It’s easy to make the argument that a candidate like Donald Trump doesn’t have any public-sector accomplishments, either, except Trump hasn’t spent most of his adult life running for one political office after another.
As we’ve discussed before, it’s not fair to say Rubio never passed a bill, but it’s awfully close. According to congress.gov, the senator, over the course of five years, took the lead in sponsoring one measure that was signed into law. It’s called the “Girls Count Act,” and it encourages developing countries to register girls’ births. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the policy, but it was a largely symbolic measure that passed both chambers without so much as a vote. It’s not like this required a lot of heavy legislative lifting.
He also helped name September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month – a measure that required even less actual work.
And that’s about it.
It’s entirely possible that Republican voters won’t care, and Rubio’s ridiculously thin record hasn’t interfered with his ability to become a media darling. But those looking for accomplished presidential candidates will clearly have to look elsewhere.