Mac Stipanovich: Marco Rubio’s Faustian bargain
Marco Rubio. Image via AP.

"Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'"

The much-anticipated U.S. Senate race in Florida between the Republican incumbent Marco Rubio and the Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Val Demings is on. And it bids fair to be the highest-profile contest in the country in the struggle for control of the Senate.

One of the more interesting aspects of this matchup is how Rubio arrived at this critical time and place. It was not by paying his dues. No, like Faust, he made a deal with the devil to get here.

The beginning — and the high point — of his tawdry journey to today was Feb. 18, 2013, the day on which he appeared on the cover of Time magazine as The Republican Savior, with the subhead of “How Marco Rubio became the new voice of the GOP,” following his initial election to the Senate. Intelligent, well-spoken, attractive with an attractive family and a good back story as the son of Cuban American working-class immigrants, Rubio appeared to be the complete package in an evolving Republican Party.

I cannot think of that Time cover, and the hagiographic profile that accompanied it, without thinking that a Prescient John Greenleaf Whittier could have had Rubio in mind when he wrote, “Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”

But it never could have been, really. The problem, which Time’s reporters could have discovered easily enough by drilling down just a bit into Rubio’s earlier political career, is that while he presents well, is plentifully supplied with ambition and has a good eye for the main chance, he is totally lacking in principles and courage.

There is not space here to detail all of the times a seemingly resolute Rubio has folded under pressure, from Personal Injury Protection reform in Tallahassee when the trial lawyers abruptly brought him to heel to immigration reform in D.C. when Tea Party zealots made him crawl on his belly and ask for their forgiveness. Suffice it to say, Rubio has never taken a stand on a tough issue and held his ground. Not once.

But it was his failed 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent events that indelibly marked him as an obsequious time server. Among all of the Republican cowards, crazies and charlatans in Congress there is a special category, the Hollow Men, composed of the three 2016 presidential candidates who knew and know who and what Trump was and is and said so plainly before he took them by the throat, forced them to their knees and made them lick his boots, which they continue to do to this day. I refer, of course to Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and the man Donald Trump contemptuously called L’il Marco, all Reeks to Trump’s Ramsay Bolton for the Game of Throne fans among you.

Being one of the Hollow Men is not, however, a bar to electoral success in the right state and the right circumstances at the right time. Cruz was reelected in Texas in 2018, defeating Beto O’Rourke and Graham was reelected in South Carolina in 2020, besting Jaime Harrison. Both of these outcomes are promising precedents for Rubio, as is the fact that 2022 is an off-year election with a Democrat in the White House. But Trump is not President as he was in 2018 or on the ballot as he was in 2020 and Florida, while now a distinctly reddish-purple, is not yet Texas or South Carolina.

Moreover, Rubio is facing a candidate who is everything he is not: a principled Black woman who is an accomplished member of Congress with a distinguished career outside of politics as a high-ranking cop and who rides a motorcycle for fun. In this context, Rubio’s biggest problem is that because he is not Trumpy enough given his past sins and obvious inconstancy to really excite the MAGA minions and drive them to the polls, he may be Trumpy enough to bring out the Democratic base, who will already be excited by a competitive Black woman on the ballot.

Which makes Rubio’s biggest campaign asset Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign is a dress rehearsal for his presumed 2024 presidential bid and so far, so good. He is singing MAGA’s greatest hits from the culture war hymnal with gusto and virtuosity, and the cult is swaying and singing along in response while the right-wing money rolls in from around the country. It is DeSantis who may save Rubio from a metaphorical mercy killing at the hands of Demings that would spare him six more years of the continued contempt of his fellow citizens of every political persuasion and further humiliation added to that which he has already meekly endured. Only time will tell.

Every day there is posted on Rubio’s Twitter account a verse from the Bible. Unsurprisingly, I have yet to see the question posed by Jesus in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The omission is undoubtedly because Rubio got the answer wrong a long time ago, just as Faust did.

Mac Stipanovich

J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich is a veteran political strategist and former lobbyist who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Martinez.


  • Tom Palmer

    June 13, 2021 at 9:03 am

    Well said.

  • justin vessey

    June 13, 2021 at 10:26 am

    An insightfully succinct distillation of Mr. Rubio’s moral compass heading. I added Goethe to my library today. Thank you very much.

  • Kathy Cooley

    June 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

    Great Game of Thrones analogy

  • Ron

    June 13, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    Demmings principled? Give me a break. The border is wide open flooding Florida cities with ruthless criminal gang members and drugs. Women and young girls are being raped by the thousands on their journey to TX. Babies are abandoned to die in the desert and thrown over 20′ walls, and children are being molested. Val says NOTHING. The drug cartels are making four hundred million dollars a week as a result of Biden/Harris’ stupidity, and Chief Val is silent while driving the getaway car, making her a phony Dirty Cop. She participated in a sham impeachment which was nothing but partisan election-year political theater. Principled? Open borders, defund the police, do away with bail, empty prisons, loot and burn down cities, all while taking away our guns. Not to mention being another Dem lapdog for China and raising taxes and gasoline prices. The woman is delusional and Rubio will peel her like an onion. Remember – this is the same FL Dem Party that gave us Andrew Gillum when they and the Tally media all knew he was a sleaze bag. Dems principled? It will be a trifecta – Demmings, Crist and Fried all gone in one year. Wooosh!
    I can’t wait.

    • JustMy$0.02Cents

      June 14, 2021 at 5:49 pm

      Triggered much? GQP is on its way out. How about you concern yourself with what you are going to do to build up America. Rubio has done nothing, continues to do nothing and will never do anything to serve his Constituents. I will help him find a new calling that will use his favorite past time of tweeting Bible verses.

    • Dan Filio

      June 14, 2021 at 7:38 pm

      If you’re going to criticize anyone, at least learn to spell their name. Also, your entire criticism is just more GOP garbage being thrown against the wall.

    • Katherine Beebe

      June 14, 2021 at 7:50 pm

      Please let me know what you been smokin cause we definitely need to steer clear of it! Just reading what you wrote makes my eyes bleed!

    • Nina R Taylor

      June 15, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      MAGA maniac.

  • Ron

    June 13, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Primary politics, like Kamala Harris saying she believed and respected Biden’s sexual assault accusers, and thought they should be heard. Is that still the case? No. So, what’s that or Rubio going after DJT five years ago got to do with Demmings. The statement was made that Val is “principled” and she’s clearly not. Thousands of women and children are being raped, molested, trafficked, while gangs and drugs are pouring into our country and state, and she’s silent.

    • Nina R Taylor

      June 15, 2021 at 2:33 pm

      They were heard, and the allegations were proved false. Come out of your Qanon bubble and you might learn something.

  • Deborah Ryan

    June 14, 2021 at 1:50 am

    All true but where was Florida’s GOP leadership.

  • LJ

    June 14, 2021 at 7:46 am

    Glorious time to be a Democrat to slam people like Marco Rubio when we have stellar Democrats like Ocassio-Cortez, Talib, Swalwell. Omar and principled Pelosi.

  • Ron Ogden

    June 14, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Mac Stipanocrist.

  • Paul Fazzina

    June 14, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    Nailed it!

  • Ronnie

    June 17, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Funny they talk about all of these awful things going on and look to Val as the one doing nothing and yet it’s all happening under DeSantis and Rubio..Exactly what does that say about their role in these issues…DeSantis is going around patting himself on the back for his unemployment success while those in the system know it’s far from successful…No one should have to call everyday for 6wks from 6:45 and never get a answer or a response to several messages left..No one should have to call several of their so called representatives including the Governor over something that has nothing to do with their own fault but the fault of a extremely expensive taxpayers funded fraud system…Now he is on a roll putting in a moment of silence in taxpayers funded PUBLIC SCHOOL with 2 children in education one elementary and the other middle/high school we are painfully aware that there are far greater issues….Please don’t say it has nothing to do with Religion as it was Satan himself who inserted “GOD” in his speech….To everyone STAY SAFE HEALTHY AND GOD BLESS…

Comments are closed.


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