Rubio Denies Interest in Switching Races
Former House Speaker Marco Rubio swept across North Florida on Wednesday, denying blog traffic that cast him as considering making a switch from the contentious and costly U.S. Senate race to an open Republican slot for state attorney general.
"Those things have been going around from the very beginning of this campaign," Rubio said Wednesday night before speaking to the Tallahassee Northeast Conservative Club. "I'm a U.S. Senate candidate, that's what I am."
The National Journal reported earlier that Rubio was calling top Republican fund-raisers and activists, floating the idea that he would abandon his campaign against well-financed Gov. Charlie Crist for Senate and enter the attorney general's race. A Republican contender has yet to emerge to challenge Democratic state Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, already vying for their party's nomination.
Adding to the tantalizing prospect, Gelber advisor Steve Schale fired off a Twitter feed calling a Rubio versus Gelber race "one for the ages."
"Steve Schale is a nice guy, but he's not one of my political advisors," Rubio said.
When he got before the Tallahassee conservative club, Rubio was more in his element. For 45 minutes, the candidate stuck close to his campaign message that both political parties are to blame for problems in Washington, that the federal government has become bloated, and that the federal stimulus program combined with rising Medicare and Social Security costs is on track to bankrupt the U.S.
"Once you create a program, it takes over the marketplace," Rubio warned, adding that Florida's state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., has become just such a fiscally unsound behemoth.
The 75 people gathered at a Tallahassee restaurant to hear Rubio ate it up. Among them, Bernice Fowler, a retired hair dresser, who cut a $100 check for the West Miami contender during his speech.
"I was for Charlie Crist when he ran for governor," Fowler said. "But he's not done what I wanted him to do. I especially don't like that he supported the federal stimulus bill. That's a big problem."
Rubio has criticized Crist for supporting the federal stimulus package, and for appointing Supreme Court justices that Rubio says are more liberal than he would have chosen. He's also criticized Crist's environmental policies.
The two candidates both say they'll likely debate the issues eventually. They were both invited to speak on a panel last week in Palm Beach at the Florida Society of News Editors meeting, but only Rubio accepted. The governor was at the conference, but at an earlier luncheon.
But Crist has so far dwarfed Rubio in fundraising, pulling in more than $4 million while Rubio has garnered less than $400,000.