Could Marco Rubio get back into the race for the US Senate? Until yesterday, the erstwhile presidential contender insisted that he would remain steadfast in his decision to withdraw, even backing another candidate Rubio considers a friend. This morning, though, Rubio told Hugh Hewitt that the terrorist attack in Orlando may lead him to rethink all his plans and consider his duty to serve.
Even though he appears somewhat more open to considering it before the deadline, Rubio still sounds reluctant — but isn’t offering an unqualified no, either:
HH: Does this horror change in any way your resolve not to seek reelection, Senator?
MR: You know, I haven’t even given it thought in that perspective other than to say that I’ve been deeply impacted by it, and I think when it visits your home state, and it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about, you know, your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country. We live in a very dramatic moment in our history. I think we’re at a tipping point here moving into the next election. Irrespective of who the next president is, I think we’re going to face some real foreign policy challenges, given some of the things both of the candidates have outlined. So you know, obviously I haven’t thought about it from a political perspective, but it most certainly has impacted my thinking in general about a lot of things.
HH: Now that I ask, will you at least consider it again?
MR: Well, obviously I have a couple of things in play. It’s not part of our plan as a family. And certainly wasn’t part of, I have a friend of mine who is running for the U.S. Senate. So I want to be fair, Hugh. I haven’t thought about it in that context. I really don’t want to link the two things right now, because I don’t want politics to intrude in all of this…
HH: I understand, but…
MR: But suffice it to say that…
HH: …there are people who know this issue. You are one of them.
MR: Well, as I said, my family and I will be praying about all this, and we’ll see what I need to do next with my life in regards to how I can best serve.
Devin Nunes has already weighed in on the question:
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) June 13, 2016
Republicans have been urging Rubio to reconsider his retirement ever since he left the presidential race in March. Polls routinely show him as the best hope the GOP has for holding the seat. A Mason-Dixon poll earlier this month showed that half of all Floridians want him to run for re-election, with support from 48% of independents and opposition from only 62% of Democrats. Another recent survey from Democratic pollster PPP showed Rubio in a tie with presumed Democratic nominee Rep. Patrick Murphy, but beating Murphy 51/34 among millennials. Red Alert Politics credits Rubio with the kind of campaign that could make his comeback a success:
Older voters, many who likely support Donald Trump, do not appreciate the senator, but millennials do. That is a direct result of the type of campaign he ran: aspirational, positive, and future-focused. He talked about fixing the college affordability crisis. He related to millennials with his personal struggles growing up in a working-class family and racking up student loan debt. He inspired millennials to see that the Republican Party actually cared about their votes.
Despite the rancor between Trump and Rubio, the former could ease that issue by endorsing Rubio’s re-election, although that could have a dampening effect on enthusiasm from millennials. That might be the one point that makes Rubio most reluctant to enter the race. He’d not only have to answer Trump questions all the way down to the election, he’d have to figure out how to both embrace and distance himself from the party’s nominee for the next four months. As it stands now, he only has to do that until the convention.
Rubio only has another ten days to make up his mind. The deadline for filing for the primary comes a week from Friday. Given that Rubio isn’t saying no here, I’d say there’s at least some chance that Republicans might get their wish and have Rubio back on the ticket.