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Tom Jackson: Seeking Florida voters’ forgiveness, Marco Rubio hits the reset button

That whooshing sound, like a battalion of leaf blowers set on high, is the hierarchy of the Republican Party responding to a rare moment of good news. Marco Rubio, who shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to leave in the first place, says he’s decided to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.

The Washington Post, never missing an opportunity, highlights an irrelevancy: Rubio is going back on a pledge not to run. Really? That was so last March. Or April. Anyway, it was sufficiently long ago to have become antique in political ages. Situations change. Stuff happens.

Sometimes revoking a pledge is the most honorable course. Hey, the Continental Congress of 1776 assembled with the idea of reconciling with George III and England. So Rubio declared independence from his presidential candidate self. Maybe this will put him on the right side of history, too.

After all, Rubio’s reversal is precisely the course recommended by a FloridaPolitics.com contributor (*blush*) a little more than three weeks ago.

For a young man in a hurry, Rubio sure took his time on this one. Sort of makes you think there were some ridiculously lucrative private-sector suitors waiting in the wings.

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However, Donald Trump notwithstanding, there is virtually no route to the White House from the private sector. And we have to believe, at 45, Rubio still aches for the prospect of getting his mail delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So it’s back to the campaign trail, where re-election to the Senate from the nation’s third-largest state would re-establish him as a Republican on the rise — especially if he commits to the work. But this time, the work will be everything.

The GOP presidential debates revealed to the nation a young senator with a granular understanding of what ails us and a grand, articulate vision of appealing center-right remedies. But Donald Trump happened. Now Rubio is demonstrating, also, adaptability.

Since his return to the Senate, he’s been entirely, well, senatorial. He’s been an energetic fixture on the floor, sometimes in opposition to GOP leadership, as in the case of his support to fully fund President Obama’s anti-Zika-virus plan. He swapped approving the new ambassador to Mexico, on which he’d put a hold, for continued sanctions against Venezuela’s socialist regime. And he’s up to his waders in Everglades cleanup legislation.

As he told POLITICO back in early May, “A couple times I’ve wondered, ‘Boy, if we had a couple more years, we could really get some stuff done.’”

Now he seems determined to give himself that chance.

Quinnipiac reports the race is Rubio’s to lose. In a poll released Wednesday, he leads the top Democratic candidates, Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, by 7 and 8 points, respectively. The same poll shows other Republican candidates losing handily.

Yes, June. Yes, the primaries haven’t happened, and Democrats haven’t coalesced. Yes, name recognition and all the rest. But 7 points ahead is a good starting place, allowing the Florida GOP to tout an alternate anchor near the top of the November ballot, and Republicans nationally to talk with seriousness about retaining their Senate majority against the excesses of whoever moves into the White House next January.

And, as described in my post urging him to seek re-election, staying in the Senate works to his long-term advantage. If he wins, it will require earning some forgiveness from Florida voters. And, because it bears constant reiteration, if, this time, he rewards their forgiveness by doing their work.

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Recovering sports columnist and former Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson argues on behalf of thoughtful conservative principles as our best path forward. Fan of the Beach Boys, pulled-pork barbecue and days misspent at golf, Tom lives in New Tampa with his wife, two children and two yappy middle-aged dogs.

Written By

Recovering sports columnist and former Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson argues on behalf of thoughtful conservative principles as our best path forward. Fan of the Beach Boys, pulled-pork barbecue and days misspent at golf, Tom lives in New Tampa with his wife, two children and two yappy middle-aged dogs.

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