It was probably the most honorable moment of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) congressional career. When the far-right Floridian launched his presidential campaign, he made a bold and meaningful promise to the public: White House or bust. Rubio wouldn’t treat a Senate seat as a consolation prize; he’d either win the 2016 presidential election or he’d be out of public office altogether.
After his national campaign failed miserably, Rubio heard the speculation about him possibly breaking his word, and he dismissed the chatter as an irritating distraction. One month ago today, the senator, annoyed by Beltway scuttlebutt, said on Twitter, “I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”
Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, Rubio said something very different.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who pledged for months not to seek re-election to the Senate as he waged an ill-fated campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, said Wednesday that he is rethinking that decision and could enter the race as soon as next week. […]“Obviously, I take very seriously everything that’s going on – not just Orlando, but in our country,” Rubio said. “I enjoy my service here a lot. So I’ll go home later this week, and I’ll have some time with my family, and then if there’s been a change in our status I’ll be sure to let everyone know.”
The deadline in Florida for declaring a candidacy is June 24, which is a week from tomorrow.
While the senator weighs his options, and decides whether or not to honor the high-profile promise he made just last year, there are some pretty straightforward questions to consider.
* Would Rubio win? He’d almost certainly stand a better chance than any of the other Florida Republicans currently running, but let’s not forget than in March, in a presidential primary he vowed to win, Rubio lost his home state by 20 points. In fact, Florida has 67 counties, and Rubio lost 66 of them. A PPP survey released earlier this month showed the senator narrowly trailing Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), the likely Democratic candidate, in a hypothetical match-up.
* Has Rubio earned a second term? As became clear over the course of his failed presidential bid, Rubio has often hated being a senator. He’s earned a reputation as a politician who doesn’t work hard, doesn’t show up as often as he’s supposed to, and finds the day-to-day grind on Capitol Hill to be boring and unsatisfying. He may see a second term as good for his long-term ambitions, but even Rubio would be hard pressed to look back on his first term as a success worthy of re-election.
* What happens if he loses? Rubio has been rather candid about his intentions to seek public office again at some point in the future. The plan was to leave Capitol Hill at the end of the year, lick his wounds, and eventually launch a comeback, basically following the Reagan model after 1976. If Rubio abandons his promise, runs for re-election, and loses, his career may very well be over.
* How would Rubio justify the broken promise? As of a few days ago, the senator suggested the mass-shooting in Orlando forced a change in his perspective. “I’ve been deeply impacted by it,” he told reporters.
But it’s a tough sell. Are we to believe Rubio somehow forgot about these kinds of violent threats when he vowed not to run, but then received a brutal reminder? For that matter, Rubio’s policy platform – which included ending marriage equality and blocking any new gun-safety restrictions – isn’t exactly the ideal fit for responding to the attack in Orlando.