Surprise: Marco Rubio flip-flops on something important to his presidential ambitions

I wonder if he’ll run as a border hawk again this time or as a comprehensive immigration reformer. No, wait, don’t tell me. I want to be surprised.

I won’t needle him too much here as Rubio running for reelection improves the GOP’s chances of holding the Senate. He’s the only Republican in Florida who leads Democrat Patrick Murphy in head-to-head polling. A new Quinnipiac survey out this morning has him ahead of Murphy comfortably by seven points. This seat would have been an almost certain goner if he’d passed on the race. It isn’t now. It’s good news for conservatives.

So I won’t needle him much. But I’m gonna needle him a little.

Marco Rubio has begun telling colleagues he will run for reelection to the Senate, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Rubio, who said when he announced his presidential bid in April that he would not seek reelection, had a change of heart following an aggressive push led by National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Ward Baker, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his allies, and a bevy of Florida politicos. All expressed concern about losing the seat to Democrats in an election year likely to prove difficult for Republicans across the board, one in which they have grown increasingly worried about keeping their Senate majority.

“This is all a giant McConnell plot,” says a source familiar with the push to convince Rubio to run, which began in earnest about three weeks ago. “And they pulled it off. It’s impressive. They cleared the field.”

Click here to read Rubio’s statement on his reversal. He said this 37 days ago:

If you’re pro-Marco, his reversal is proof that he’s a good soldier for his party, his country, and for conservatism. He could have gone for a big payday in the private sector, lived large for awhile, and then reemerged to run for Senate or governor a few years down the line. He seems honestly shaken by the Orlando attack and felt a duty to continue to serve. There’s no reason to think his plans on retiring were insincere; McConnell and his Senate colleagues really did twist his arm. And there’s no denying that holding this seat would have been a heavy lift without Rubio what with Murphy already in front against other Republican contenders and Trump possibly a drag on the GOP down-ballot. If you’re pro-Marco, he took one for the team today.

If you’re less pro-Marco, well, there’s an … alternate explanation:

Temporarily retiring to be a lobbyist or a banker or whatever would have been lucrative but the path back to national prominence wouldn’t have been easy. Rubio had the “future of the party” niche to himself for the past few years; pols like Nikki Haley and Ben Sasse are going to compete for that in 2020. If Rubio had left politics, he’d risk becoming “old news” and he’d lose his ability to shape legislation on which he’ll base his national platform when he runs for president again. And Rubio’s sensitive to the idea that an ambitious pol needs to move quickly to capitalize when he has some political cachet. That’s why he refused to stand aside for Jeb Bush in running for president. He watched Obama seize his chance in 2008 when Democrats were telling him to stand aside for Hillary. That paid off. Like O, Rubio’s a young man in a hurry. Running this year and losing his Senate race is hugely risky in that it would all but finish him off as a serious presidential contender, but dropping out of politics for awhile runs a similar risk. He’d rather take an active risk than a passive one, it seems. Can’t say I blame him.

He’s not running in the primary unopposed, by the way. His friend, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, will stand aside for him, and Rep. David Jolly has already said he won’t run against Rubio. But Carlos Beruff is still in it to win it. Here’s his roundhouse at Rubio yesterday:

“Voters all across this state are fed up with the status quo. Career politicians like Marco Rubio worry more about keeping the job than doing the job, and are constantly looking for their next political promotion. I have real world experience and will bring my business mindset to the massive problems facing our country, problems that have only gotten worse while Marco Rubio has been our Senator.

“This isn’t Marco Rubio’s seat; this is Florida’s seat. The power brokers in Washington think they can control this race. They think they can tell the voters of Florida who their candidates are. But the voters of Florida will not obey them. Like Marco Rubio in 2010, I’m not going to back down from the Washington establishment. They are the problem, not the solution.”

Golly, he sounds like 2010 Marco attacking Charlie Crist. Relatedly, Rubio reportedly dialed up Ted Cruz yesterday and asked Cruz to put out a statement calling on Rubio to run for reelection. Why? Precisely because he’s worried about Beruff’s line of attack and the point made in the excerpt above about how this is “all a giant McConnell plot.” Rubio doesn’t want to be seen as Mitch’s boy, doing the bidding of the Republican establishment. Having Cruz urging him publicly to run would give him some tea-party cred. Cruz’s response: No thanks. There’s already a tea partier in the primary, Ron DeSantis, and Cruz didn’t want to be seen as bigfooting him. Go figure that Cruz isn’t eager to get a would-be 2020 rival for the nomination reelected.

Via the Free Beacon, here’s Rubio explaining why he changed his mind. The most interesting reason: The Senate is going to need to check the next president — whoever that may be. “No matter who’s elected president,” Rubio told the Miami Herald, “there’s reason to worry.” You might not see too many joint appearances from him and Trump on the trail in Florida. In fact, if Rubio does end up holding the seat, that’ll make it even more impressive. He’ll have to do it not only by running against the Democrats but against the nominee of his own party. Ah well. Exit question from a Twitter pal: If Rubio can break his pledge not to run for Senate again, why can’t he break his pledge to support Trump?

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