This won’t edge him past Cruz for the coveted Bob Vander Plaats endorsement in Iowa but it’ll help clean up a small mess he’s made for himself among social conservatives on gay marriage. Remember how Rubio reacted the day after the Supreme Court’s ruling on SSM came down, when loud-and-proud evangelicals like Huckabee slammed the Court for making law and called on Christians to practice civil disbodience? Quote: “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law.” Well, okay, you say, but that’s not inconsistent with his point about settled law versus current law. We must abide by the law — but only until we can change it. In fact, the very next sentence of Rubio’s statement that day said that appointing originalist judges must be a priority for the next president, an obvious hint at overturning the decision.
Fair enough, but note this part of what he says to Brody:
“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it, not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.
“I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman, and that the proper place for that to be decided is at the state level, where marriage has always been regulated, not by the U.S. Supreme Court, and not by the federal government.”
In that case, how come Rubio opposes a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Obergefell decision and restore state supremacy over marriage law, exactly what he seems to recommend here? His opposition to an amendment seemed mystifying to me when he announced it in July — if you’re willing to appoint justices who’ll overturn the decision, why aren’t you willing to overturn it democratically? — and seems even more so today, especially with Ted Cruz shaping up to be one of Rubio’s most imposing rivals for the nomination. Cruz not only proposed an amendment like that, he went the extra mile for social conservatives and proposed a second amendment that would create judicial retention elections for the Court’s justices, an effort to make them more mindful of majority opinion when they rule. Neither amendment will pass, but they’re no-brainers for a conservative candidate looking to impress voters in a Republican primary. As it is, it’s only a matter of time before Team Cruz starts pounding Rubio for opposing the amendment.
The only explanation I can come up with for why Rubio opposed it in July and seems more open to the idea today is that the presidential politics have changed. This summer, he was still competing for the endorsement of big-bucks donors like Paul Singer, who supports gay marriage. If Rubio had gone full Huckabee or Cruz against the Obergefell decision, that might have tipped Singer towards Jeb Bush. Now that he’s locked up Singer’s endorsement, though, and with the donor class panicked over Trump’s stubborn polling and Ted Cruz’s surge, he figures he has carte blanche from his backers to make some compromises, at least rhetorically, with the right in the name of winning the nomination. It’s immigration reform all over again: Having showed big donors that he’d govern like a “reasonable” centrist Republican on one of their pet issues by joining the Gang of Eight, he’s now free-ish to tack right by insisting that security must come first and that comprehensive reform won’t work — at least right now. His donors aren’t going to be such sticklers for centrist orthodoxy that they’ll stop Rubio from pandering a bit in the name of competing in more conservative states like Iowa. I hope someone asks him again soon if he’s reconsidered his support for an amendment to let the states take over gay marriage. I bet he’ll say yes this time, which will be an … interesting gloss on him smacking Cruz for supposedly having changed his mind on legalizing illegals.
In lieu of an exit question, read Betsy Woodruff’s piece last week about Team Rubio trying to balance its pro-SSM elements like Singer with its anti-SSM evangelical outreach.