Something for everyone here. For Trump fans, any reason to brutalize Rubio is a good reason, even when he’s being brutalized for, er, endorsing Trump. For #NeverTrumpers, there’s grim recognition that it is weird, come to think of it, for Rubio to stand by a would-be president whom he admitted isn’t fit to command America’s nuclear arsenal. Candidates routinely endorse victorious opponents after a tough primary but they don’t routinely describe their opponent as “a dangerous con artist” first. And for Rubio fans, there’s the satisfaction of knowing that this tirade, as effective as it is, probably isn’t derailing Rubio’s reelection bid. In fact, the DSCC canceled its ad spending in Florida a few days ago, resigned, it seems, to the reality that Patrick Murphy’s a lame candidate who hasn’t led a poll there since June — even though Clinton’s surged into a steady four-point lead over the same period.
There are two explanations for Obama going after Rubio this harshly. One is strategic, that he’s playing the long game. If he can help get Murphy elected, that’ll finish off Rubio’s national ambitions and spare Democrats from a threat in 2020. One of the revelations from John Podesta’s emails via Wikileaks was that Team Clinton feared Rubio, understandably. The other explanation is non-strategic, namely, that this is payback for Rubio attacking Obama relentlessly during the primaries as a malign force. “All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate,” Rubio once said of O. Maybe Obama remembered and decided to vent.
The killer line comes at the very end:
“Marco Rubio is one of those people!” Obama said, of Republicans who have stood behind Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump despite speaking out against him. “How does that work? Who can you call him a con artist and dangerous and object to all the controversial things he says, and then say, ‘but I’m still gonna vote for him’? Come on, man!”
“Come on, man!”
“It is the height of cynicism – that’s the sign of somebody who will say anything, do anything, pretend to be anybody, just to get elected,” Obama continued. “And you know what? If you’re willing to be anybody just to be somebody, then you don’t have the leadership that Florida needs in the US Senate!”
Rubio was willing to be an immigration hawk in his first run for Senate in 2010 in order to “be somebody,” then willing to be a moderate as part of the Gang of Eight because he thought it’d help him “be somebody” in 2016. He thought Trump was grossly unfit for office in the primaries, now he stands by him for fear of alienating Trump’s voters. That’s the deeper critique of Rubio here, and one that resonates with many Republicans — that Rubio’s ambitious opportunism leaves you perpetually unsure of how much you can trust him to stick to his guns. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
Oh well. Luckily we’ve got Donald Trump as our nominee instead of Marco, huh? Exit question via Matt Lewis: Didn’t Barack Obama once help tank immigration reform as a senator for his own nakedly ambitious reasons? Bad things happen if you’re willing to be anybody just to be somebody, Barack.