Marco Rubio: Dream candidate or political nightmare?

Republicans are enamored with Marco Rubio. Is his appeal rooted in fact or fiction? The answer might not be what most want to hear. Photo: Marco Rubio

FLORIDA, March 11, 2012 — If someone approached the average Jack or Jane on the street and offered a ten-dollar bill in exchange for five singles, the response would probably be guarded trepidation.  

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Say that Jack or Jane is the same as before, but the person approaching is different. Rather than a shifty stranger, he is a charismatic, likable figure who dresses to the nines and has a gift of gab the likes of which even President Obama can admire.

The thing of it is, though, he is still out to get something. It is not money, but votes. How will Jack or Jane react this time?

So begins the story of Marco Rubio. There is more than one group crying nay about the GOP’s brightest rising star.

My home state’s junior U.S. Senator has become quite the D.C. man-about-town. It seems like most of the Republican political operatives and pundits across the fruited plains expect to see him run for president in 2016.

And few people are bothering to criticize him in any substantiative manner. The Democrats are probably storing the good stuff away for an October surprise a few months shy of four years from now.

They really do plan in advance, one must give them that.

All of this begs the question: Is Rubio really the sort of golden boy that many think he is?

In a 2010 Tampa Bay Creative Loafing article, writer Mitch Perry noted that Rubio, then-Governor Charlie Crist, and then-U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek were ranked among the eleven most corrupt political candidates in the country by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Rubio had an especially interesting set of reasons for being on the list. At the time, he was “implicated in a federal criminal investigation for the misuse of Florida Republican Party credit cards during his time as Speaker” of the state House.

The report went on to state that “(l)egally, party credit cards can only be used for political activities, but Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs and grocery purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.”

That’s not all, though. Rubio also acknowledged that he “double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007.”

Rubio never did face charges for any of this. Maybe that’s for the best; it could very well be that he made some mistakes and later accounted for them. Frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions are never a positive development. Still, one can safely say thathe had far too many close calls for comfort. 

Speaking of comfort, Rubio seems to live in quite a bit of it.

That’s not a bad thing, of course. However, the man is roughly $1 million in debt and almost saw one of his homes slip into foreclosure. Considering that he is one of the foremost voices for fiscal conservatism on Capitol Hill, there will no doubt be allegations of hypocrisy brought against him. Whether one might stand on the left or the right, there should be little doubt that these criticisms have more than a grain of truth to them.

How can Rubio be taken seriously as the nation’s economic watchdog when he is hardly able to keep his own house out of the hands of creditors, let alone in good order?

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Rubio’s appeal to GOPers is his Hispanic identity. The son of Cuban immigrants, he certainly has a strong claim to this. However, he doesn’t even have a weak claim to broad-based appeal within the Hispanic community. As a matter of fact, a scant 24 percent of its members think favorably of him. 42 percent, meanwhile, have an outright unfavorable view.

So much for supporting immigration amnesty in hope of the Hispanic vote. Other politicians ought to learn from this, but it is a lesson that just makes too much sense for serious evaluation.

Don’t be fooled by Rubio’s long list of non-accomplishments, though. He is currently hard at work on building the Hip-Hop Caucus (Note: Communities own Shirley Husar is owner of Hip Hop Republican TV). At the moment, he is its sole member, but only time will tell if other members of Congress are cool about getting down with the HHC. Apparently, the R-man is a big fan of Tupac Shakur and Nicki Minaj, so there should be much to discuss.

Just imagine that this is the fellow who is being touted as a strong contender to go up against the likes of Andrew Cuomo or Hillary Clinton.

With Rubio at the top of its ticket, I predict a Mondale-style election night coming the GOP’s way. The Party will have only itself to thank for yet another hard earned loss.

Jack or Jane, beware.  

Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 



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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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