In case you missed it, Conservative Review hosted a convention in South Carolina yesterday, only days before the hotly contested GOP primary election there. Hosted by the Boss Emeritus and conservative radio powerhouse Mark Levin, the event was very well attended, with thousands coming to take part and listen to a number of high profile conservative speakers. According to the organizers they extended invitations to all the remaining presidential candidates, but the ones featured as speakers were Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Marco Rubio.
Well, as Meatloaf once said… two out of three ain’t bad. (McKay Coppins)
Forty-five minutes after Marco Rubio was scheduled to take the stage at a conservative confab here Thursday night, organizers got word from the candidate’s aides that he was canceling his appearance — a perceived snub that set off a late-night war of words between the candidate’s campaign and right-wing rivals accusing him of cowardice.
Rubio was one of three presidential candidates who had accepted invitations to speak at the inaugural Conservative Review Convention — an event hosted by talk radio star Mark Levin and commentator Michelle Malkin.
But the crowd that gathered Thursday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena — just 36 hours before polls were set to open in South Carolina’s high-stakes GOP primary — was overwhelmingly composed of Cruz supporters, while a smaller portion of the audience cheered on Ben Carson.
The contingent of Rubio fans in attendance was virtually invisible.
First of all, props to Conservative Review for overcoming all the challenges inherent in putting together something of this size and giving conservatives another venue to gather, communicate, and put candidates and issues in the spotlight for critical examination. Whether it’s their event, CPAC, RedState Gathering or the many other such conclaves taking place around the nation, this is a net plus for conservatives and candidates alike.
What happened to Rubio, however, is another question entirely. There seems to be some spin coming from Marco’s camp about their schedule being convoluted, but in a state as critical to all the establishment lane candidates as South Carolina has turned out to be, you’d think you would prioritize such a large and motivated crowd a bit more highly. But was it just scheduling issues, or was the campaign reacting to the perception that the assembled masses might be hostile to Rubio or more inclined to support Cruz or Carson?
Rubio’s surrogates, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy, were not allowed to speak on his behalf, but the organizers had previously refused to allow a surrogate for Jeb Bush to stand in for him and they had to keep the rules the same for everyone. The impression left by not showing up after previously committing to the appearance was, to say the least, less than desirable. But our colleague at RedState, Ben Howe, seems to be writing it off as no big deal.
CR did offer to extend the entire show to accommodate him, but he had other obligations that made that solution unworkable.
So there you have it. Despite the efforts of some to make this something it’s not, Marco Rubio couldn’t make an event because it’s mere days before the SC primary and his schedule ended up causing a delay that caused him to miss it. And this was known well before “five minutes” of his scheduled appearance time.
This is otherwise known as the most common thing to happen, ever.
With all due respect to Ben, I’m not sure that explanation passes the smell test. (At least not entirely.) The reason I say this can be found from Ben’s own coverage earlier in that same article. (Emphasis added)
So my first question was, obviously, did Rubio really tuck tail only 5 minutes before his appearance?
“No,” was the immediate response. “He was scheduled at 8 and [after an hour of trying to make it work] called at 8:45 saying it wouldn’t work. We had begun adjusting the schedule.”
I’m unclear how one squares that with saying, And this was known well before “five minutes” of his scheduled appearance. If it was well known that he wasn’t going to make an 8 pm stage time, how is it that they called 45 minutes after he was due on the podium? None of us can list “mind reader” on our resumes, but the preponderance of Cruz supporters in the crowd sounds a lot more likely as the reason for bailing out on a scheduled appearance before thousands of conservatives, some of whom were still no doubt making up their minds how to vote tomorrow.
Look, I get that nobody likes to face a potentially critical audience when they could be talking to supporters and cheerleaders instead, but running for President is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. And if you do manage to land the job, you’re going to be leading a lot of people who may frequently disagree with or even disparage you. Facing down an audience which may initially be favoring one of your opponents and winning some of them over with your message and presentation is is the hallmark of a winner. If Marco Rubio just walked away from a high profile commitment he’d made for an event of this size because he couldn’t take the heat, that’s probably not the sort of signal you wanted to send 48 hours before the polls close.