Marco Rubio returns to Florida this weekend to make a momentous decision — whether to seek a second term as a Republican senator — and Democrats are giving him plenty to think about.
An online ad released Friday by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee previews the sort of campaign Rubio can expect to endure should he decide to reverse the decision, made when he entered the presidential race last year, to forego re-election to run for president.
The ad highlights the scores of votes and committee hearings Rubio missed while pursuing the presidency, the repeated pledges he made during that campaign not to return to the Senate and his vote in December against a Democratic proposal to bar suspected terrorists from purchasing guns.
The points raised in the ad — you may be shocked to learn — are the same ones that were highlighted by DSCC-backed candidate Rep. Patrick Murphy in a CNN interview Wednesday, soon after Rubio announced he was considering seeking re-election.
“This is about the people of Florida,” Murphy said. “This is about making sure they have someone that’s going to fight for them, all right, that’s not going to miss a historic amount of votes in committees, that’s going to vote against this terrorist loophole that I believe is largely responsible for what just happened the other day,” referencing Sunday’s terror attack in Orlando.
Murphy has already raised more than $7 million for the race; Rubio’s presidential campaign account had more than $3 million when he withdrew but also $2 million in unpaid loans. There are competitive Aug. 30 primaries on both sides: Murphy faces Rep. Alan Grayson, while Rubio, were he to run, could face at least two well-funded opponents.
The most recent public polling, done earlier this month by Public Policy Polling, found Rubio and Murphy statistically tied in that hypothetical race. But Rubio’s approval rating was badly underwater, with only 32 percent of voters endorsing his job performance, while Murphy remains unknown to a large chunk of Florida voters.
But those polls also show Murphy leading other Republican candidates in the race, and national Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — are convinced that Rubio is the only candidate who can keep the seat in GOP hands. Those operatives may look at the Democrats’ ad as proof positive they are scared of Rubio’s unmatched name recognition and proven fundraising ability.
Democrats insist that is not the case. “Marco Rubio has spent his term in the Senate not showing up for work, complaining about his job and when he did show up, taking dangerous votes like the one he cast to keep open the terrorist gun loophole,” said Lauren Passalacqua, the DSCC’s national press secretary.
“After a bruising 20 point loss to Donald Trump in the Florida presidential primary, recent polls have shown again that Floridians just don’t like Marco Rubio, and this video makes it clear why,” she added. “If Rubio decides to run for re-election, his long record of failing Florida voters will be impossible to defend.”
Greg Blair, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the GOP has plenty of confidence in any Republican candidate: “Establishment Democrats have thrown their support behind a candidate whose only accomplishments are embellishing his resume and getting elected to Congress. Between Murphy’s fabricated record and his bruising primary fight with Alan Grayson, the DSCC has every reason to panic about their ability to win this race.”