With the political world’s attention shifting to Georgia, Florida’s senior Senator shifted his campaigning focus to the Peach State.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran for President in 2016, stood alongside Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler at an event effectively kicking off a runoff campaign against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
He stood in front of a display of Sen. David Perdue and Loeffler in front of an American flag, before donning a mask and venturing into a crowded indoor crowd with a thumbs up in the air. Rubio became the first of Loeffler’s Senate colleagues from outside the state to hit the trail at her side, and he spoke in booking terms about the stakes of the race.
“This is literally the showdown of all showdowns in terms of politics and what it means,” Rubio said, according to the Rome News-Tribune.
The Miami political leader minced no words.
“This is Georgia’s decision to make, but it’s America that will live with the consequences of that decision.”
Loeffler, appointed last year to fill out the term of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson, came in second behind Warnock in the Nov. 3 Special Election, with neither candidate earning 33% of the vote. The same night, incumbent Sen. Perdue, also a Republican, came just short of 50% and now faces a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Moreover, with a Senate race in Alaska now settled, it’s clear control of the Senate hinges on whether Democrats in a January runoff can flip both seats blue.
It makes sense for Rubio to all but move in to Georgia. So amid tweets about Tropical Storm Eta and interviews about the future of his party, he stumped alongside his Senate colleague.
Online, Rubio launched a clear line of attack against Warnock.
“In 1995, Raphael Warnock was one of the pastors at a church in New York that hosted Fidel Castro for a speech where he attacked America & ended by singing the socialist hymn Internationale,” the Cubano Senator tweeted. “25 years later Warnock wants to be a U.S. Senator from Georgia.”
While Democrats celebrated Joe Biden’s presidential victory, the left had a lousy night in Florida. That came in part, many pundits suggest, because of successful branding of the Democratic Party as socialists, a charge with particular weight among Hispanic voters whose families fled Cuba, Venezuela and other communist regimes.
Rubio, a product of South Florida Republican politics, serves perhaps as the best messenger for that line of attack in the nation.
At the same time, Rubio’s aggressive moves in Georgia comes as his critics in Florida launch a Retire Rubio effort, where Democrats excited over defeating Donald Trump rev up for the 2022 Senate cycle. The second-term Senator is expected to seek reelection that year, and likely needs to click a win in the swing state to keep his Presidential ambitions alive.
Playing a role in Senate wins in Georgia likely helps his future all around, wherever it leads. Rubio notably has sought support from Georgia voters before. During his run for President in 2016, he came in second place in Georgia’s Super Tuesday Presidential Primary, behind Trump.
It’s a different political climate today. Georgia, once a lock for Republicans in Presidential elections, is preparing for a manual recount in which Joe Biden goes in with a lead of more than 14,000 votes. The Florida Senator has reasons short-term and long-term to secure the Peach State’s reputation as a Republican stronghold.
Rubio’s trip north into the Deep South drew negative headlines as well. With a pandemic spiking, the Cobb County rally generated criticism for Rubio and Loeffler holding an indoor event with a good share of the crowd going maskless.
Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at indoor rally in Georgia: "Not all Democrats are socialists — but all the socialists are Democrats." pic.twitter.com/H1yNJ8dUwe
— The Hill (@thehill) November 11, 2020