Friday, October 22, 2010

Rubio's words the same as underdog to frontrunner

As I read this article, I remembered back to last year when I was intrigued about Marco Rubio for Florida Senator from the time I heard he was running. He started out down over 30 points -- had a slight disagreement with a good friend on whether he could win. He was convinced that Charlie Crist was going to win hands down, but I wasn't so sure and started touting Rubio on my blog. The more I heard of him, the better I liked him and thought he was the type of Senator we needed from Florida.

In the Florida Governor's primary in 2006 was a supporter of Tom Gallagher so was never really a full blown Crist fan although supported him for Governor. More and more conservative websites started supporting Rubio. Then what I consider the straw that broke the camels back with support Crist happened -- he called all the County Chairs and longtime activists in Florida asking for their recommendations as to who they would like to see finishe the term of then Senator Martinez who was retiring from the Senate. Crist had a former member of Congress Rep Bilarakis fill out a questionnaire about who he was which most thought was odd.

When it was announced that he had chosen his long time friend LeMieux to be the Senator, it sent shock waves around the State in Republican circles as most people had him on the bottom of their list (he has turned out to be a very good Senator). From that point on the tide turned on Crist by the activists and his numbers started going down while Rubio's went up. Next thing we know the race was tied and then Rubio was climbing in the polls while Crist started tanking. All of a sudden the Obama/Crist hug started showing up on websites all across the Country. It was the most remarkable turnaround we have witnessed in Republican politics with Crist leaving the GOP and becoming NO PARTY rather than lose to Rubio in the primary.

On the evening of November 2nd after the polls have closed and ballots are counted, we will be saying Senator-Elect Rubio. His journey to be the next Senator from Florida which started as an idea along with some grassroots supporters will have culminated in his election to the United States Senate.

Rubio's words the same as underdog to frontrunner
October 22, 2010 12:05 AM

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate
Marco Rubio speaks to supporters
at a rally at American Aero in New
Smyrna Beach, Thursday,
October 7,  2010. (N-J

David Massey)

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Marco Rubio speaks to supporters at a rally at American Aero in New Smyrna Beach, Thursday, October 7, 2010. (N-J | David Massey)

MIAMI (AP) -- Marco Rubio was at a Panhandle truck stop refueling during a trip from Pensacola to Tallahassee when a truck driver startled him.

"Hey Rubio!" the man shouted from the doorway of the restaurant. As Rubio turned around with a "who me?" look. The man added, "You got my vote" and then quickly popped back inside.

Rubio, caught offguard, asked his volunteers what he should do. They encouraged him to go inside and thank the man. Rubio did, telling the only reporter covering his trip to wait outside because he didn't want to look like he was using the opportunity to gain attention.

That was 15 months ago. That was when the Republican establishment said he was crazy and laughed at the idea that the former state House speaker could topple political giant Gov. Charlie Crist. That's when Rubio only had three campaign staffers and couldn't afford to bring any on trips. It's when he was down 21 points in the polls and a good day was when he could speak before a crowd of 80 people and raise $1,000.

A lot has changed since then. Rubio, 39, drove Crist from the primary, he's set and reset fundraising records and he's become a national darling of the conservative movement. The same people who laughed at him stand firmly behind him. The only thing that hasn't changed is his message.

"People forget that there were many in the Republican Party that were saying that in order to be successful in the future, Republicans were going to have to become more like Democrats and I never bought into that notion," Rubio said recently. "Ultimately the support we're now getting from folks that are in the establishment are people who are buying into our agenda, we're not buying into theirs."

Whether it was before a few dozen people at the start of his campaign, the 3,000 he addressed as the keynote speaker at the American Conservative Union Foundation's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, or during the Senate debates televised nationally, Rubio has been consistent with his message.

It boils down to this: America under President Barack Obama is heading in a new direction that's not good. The number one issue for him is government spending and debt. He says his children risk being part of the first generation of Americans who are worse off than the generation before.

He calls the $787 billion federal stimulus and the health care overhaul disastrous policies that will contribute to the country's bankruptcy. That problem will be worse if significant changes aren't made to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, he argues.

Unlike most politicians -- especially in a state like Florida with 2.5 million retirees -- he isn't afraid to talk about changes to Social Security. He wants to gradually raise the age of eligibility to 70 and restructure the formula that determines retirees' initial benefits. He would leave anyone now 55 or older exempt from the changes.

While Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek criticize him for wanting to tinker with Social Security, Rubio says something needs to be done or the financial consequences will damage the country.

"I'm the only one with a plan to save Social Security. I'm the only one with a plan to reduce the national debt. I'm the only one with a plan of what government's role should be to grow the economy," Rubio said. "I'm the only one running for U.S. Senate that has any idea about how serious our debt is and where it's taking our country."

It's a message that first resonated with tea party activists. While Crist was raising millions of dollars and acting as if he didn't have any primary competition, Rubio was driving around the state talking to any group that would listen. Tea partiers began raving about him and his momentum began to build.

Maryellen Winkel, a 46-year-old engineer from New Port Richey, didn't consider herself politically active until this election cycle. Sure, she read up on candidates and voted, but the Republican didn't go to rallies or events. But last February, she drove about three hours to Fort Myers to hear Rubio speak at a tea party rally that marked one year since Crist and Obama stood together to promote the stimulus.

"I had heard a few things about him and wanted to see if he was as real as he seems," she said. "I'm very impressed at his values and his morals and where he wants the country to go with less spending. When I look at the other candidates he wins me over even more."

She has heard the attacks, that Rubio put personal expenses on his Republican Party credit card (which Rubio says he reimbursed at the time they occurred), that he's not as fiscally conservative as he makes himself out to be, that he is really just another politician that is remaking himself to reflect the current political atmosphere.

"I just see it as politics as usual," Winkel said, adding Rubio's message rises above the attacks. "It just has to do with the environment around us and the insane spending and the entitlement attitude."

And it's not just the message, but the way he delivers it. He is an excellent, charismatic public speaker that fires up conservative audiences. He sprinkles the right touch of humor into his discussion of America going down the wrong path.

When crowds chant "Marco! Marco!" he jokes that he's afraid someone will reply "Polo!" When star-struck supporters ask if he'll run for president, he says maybe for president of a condo association. In a shot at Obama, he jokes that he is running for Senate because he wants to win a Nobel Prize, then adds that he would have to be in Senate for two years to achieve that.

He has a feel-good story about being raised by Cuban immigrants who worked hard to give their children opportunities they never had. His family moved to Las Vegas when he was a teenager and his mother worked as a hotel maid and his father as a casino bartender. He says his success is part of the American dream, a story that can't be duplicated anywhere else.

Rep. David Rivera, a longtime friend and former roommate of Rubio's when they were both in the House, said Rubio has always had the ability to engage a crowd, pointing back 15 years ago when they both worked for Bob Dole's presidential campaign.

"He would energize the room and energize the volunteers and right from that moment I knew he would go very far in public life," said Rivera, who is running for Congress. "Even before then, you could detect that he was someone with great optimism, someone who was very concerned about the community."

While it sounds like political cliche, Rubio often mentions his children as a driving factor in his run for Senate. His wife, Jeanette, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, said Rubio often takes breaks to spend time with their four children, ages 3 through 10. That includes giving up a chance to meet with newspaper editors from around the country less than two weeks from the election so he could join one of his sons on a school field trip.

"On Sundays, he makes it a point not to do anything to be with his kids and the family and we all do things together. Especially at the beginning of the campaign he would go out of his way to make sure that even though he was driving, if he had to come home at 1 o'clock to wake up in the morning to take the kids to school, he would do it," she said. "His family is what grounds him and what makes him able to see the things that he feels that are wrong."

Source: Daytona Beach News Journal

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