© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida Supporters, Detractors Say Rubio Has To Prove He Wants His Senate Job

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Marco Rubio greets guests gathered for a campaign event at Town Hall on Aug. 5, 2015, in Cleveland.

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, is running for reelection to the U.S. Senate. It's a reversal from what the senator has been saying for months. Now, both the senator's supporters and detractors say he has to prove he wants the job.

Since Rubio’s announcement, three GOP candidates for the seat have dropped out: Congressmen David Jolly, Ron Desantis and Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

In a press release from the Lopez-Cantera campaign, the former candidate called on Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff to drop out.

It is critical for Florida, and for the future of our country, that a republican with the ability to make a difference on the critical issues facing our state and nation wins this seat, and Marco has demonstrated that ability time and time again. With that in mind, I encourage Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox to do what is right and unite behind Marco's re-election so we can ensure that we have the best candidate with the best ability to represent all of our families in the U.S. Senate.

On Friday, Wilcox responded and dropped out of the race to support Rubio in a Facebook post.

With all that is at stake, I have decided to end my campaign for the United States Senate and support Marco Rubio in his bid to keep this seat in the Republican Party. Senator Rubio and I don’t agree on everything. We've traveled different paths, but I respect his grasp of the challenges we face and I appreciate the reality that he, as the incumbent, is best positioned to defeat either Patrick Murphy or Alan Grayson in November. We cannot allow either of these liberal Democrats to carry on the disastrous policies of the Obama administration – Floridians deserve better.

Beruff, on the other hand, isn’t backing down.

“(Rubio) broke promises,” Beruff says. “He continually breaks promises to the public. He did not represent Florida citizens, and now he realizes this is the way he can stay in the limelight. I think Floridians will see through that. But maybe I’m wrong, but I’m willing to take my chances.”

Now Beruff can add a major supporter, because Governor Rick Scott is backing him.

However, there are many Florida Republicans who side with Rubio like Mac Stipanovich, a long-time Republican strategist.

“I’m very glad that he is deciding to seek reelection,” Stipanovich says. “He has the best chance to hold seat for the Republican Party, and we’re going to need to have a Republican Senate when Hillary Clinton’s president.”

A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows more Florida voters are siding with Rubio. He leads Democrat Patrick Murphy by seven points and Democrat Alan Grayson by eight.

Peter Brown, an assistant director at Quinnipiac University Poll, says Rubio running as the incumbent gives the senator an advantage.

“He has a positive job approval rating,” Brown says. “Voters like him. You know, incumbents can tend to get reelected. He’s a fairly popular incumbent. He’s obviously ahead.

“But (will he) be ahead in November? You know, we’ll see. But again, it’s better to be up seven or eight points than to be down seven.”

Despite Rubio’s lead, Murphy says he isn’t worried.

“You know Senator Rubio thinks the Senate is a chore,” Murphy said in a telephone conference with reporters. “I love showing up to work, and I love working hard. Senator Rubio thinks the Senate can’t get things done. He said in a quote, ‘We’re not going fix America with senators and congressmen. He said, ‘I’m missing votes because I’m leaving the Senate.’

“You know, Senator, I just got to tell you, I think Floridians expect better.”

Stipanovich also agrees that in order to win the Senate seat, Rubio will need to prove to Florida voters that he wants the job.

“As Ricky Ricardo would say…he’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do,” Stipanovich says. “That would be his commitment not to seek reelection. Some of the things and positions he took during the presidential campaign, he may have to walk back now. He’s going to have to deal with his poor attendance in the Senate while he was running for president.

“So, I think one of the greatest difficulties he will have is persuading voters that he wants the job and that he will do the job.”

Democratic congressman Alan Grayson says he doesn’t believe Rubio really wants it.

“I don’t know why he wants to continue in the job,” Grayson said in a press conference on Tuesday. “He doesn’t seem to show any interest for it, and for God’s sake certainly no flair. Maybe he should let somebody else do it for a while who has some ability to get good things done for the people of Florida.”

Meanwhile, Governor Scott is calling Beruff a close friend and says Floridians deserve the opportunity to consider his candidacy alongside Rubio.