It’s worth noting that he said this on Thursday, not as a reaction to what Priebus said yesterday. In fairness, Rubio never claimed he was part of #NeverTrump and never once said when asked that he wouldn’t support Trump as nominee — but man, he sure did come close. His single most memorable moment of the campaign was the impromptu indictment of Trump and Trumpism that he delivered at a press gaggle three days before Florida voted. He wouldn’t rule out supporting Trump even then, but he claimed, with a catch in his throat, that the idea of doing so was “getting harder every day.” This is a guy whom he repeatedly described on the trail as a “con artist” and an agent of chaos who was helping to rip the country apart at the seams.
Check him out now. “Forget the favorable primary calendar, the Indiana polls, the anti-Trump forces being MIA in NY, et al,” McKay Coppins wrote yesterday. “Trump wins when the party folds.” Here’s Rubio folding.
“I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and that’s especially true now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate,” Rubio said.
“My differences with Donald Trump are well documented, and obviously we had 12 months to talk about those,” Rubio said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be the nominee. We don’t know that yet … but Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. She really would. I think she’s got a lot of ethical questions surrounding her campaign. I think she was not a very good secretary of state, and, quite frankly, she’s a candidate that looks backwards. America needs to turn the page and move towards the future.”
He still hasn’t endorsed Cruz yet. There remains a benign possibility to explain that, though, and maybe to explain his distance from #NeverTrumpers here too: Remember, Rubio has asked various state GOP officials to keep his delegates bound to him on the first ballot at the convention. The obvious reason for doing that would be to keep them away from Trump and Paul Manafort, knowing that if his delegates suddenly became unbound, Trump might win them over and get to 1,237 that way. The fear is that, if Rubio formally endorses another candidate, namely, Cruz, it might violate a state party rule, thereby unbinding his delegates and putting them in play for Trump. Similarly, what if Rubio breaks his pledge by vowing not to support Trump as nominee? When Trump did that a few weeks ago, claiming he no longer felt bound by the pledge, some crafty anti-Trumpers pointed out that signing the pledge was a condition of appearing on South Carolina’s primary ballot. Arguably, breaking his pledge meant his delegates in SC were no longer bound. It may be that Rubio’s mindful of that here and is simply being careful not to say anything that might lead to his own delegates being challenged. But if that were the case, why add the emphasis when he says it’s now “especially true” that he’ll back the GOP nominee? He sounds sincere. The question is why.
The only answer I can think of, barring an unlikely alliance with Trump behind the scenes, is that he’s already positioning himself for 2020 and doesn’t want to be attacked when he runs again for not having been a good soldier for the previous nominee. He knows Trump fans dislike him, enough so that they could cause him headaches in four years if he wins the nomination. If he goes #NeverTrump now, it becomes very easy for them to justify going #NeverRubio in 2020. For the same reason, I think, you’re going to see Cruz endorse Trump as nominee too. Neither one of these guys is done with running for president after this cycle. Why burn bridges that they might need later? On the other hand, is a Trump/Rubio alliance as unlikely as we think? Go watch this clip of Hannity bantering with Neil Cavuto about the possibility of a convention. “I think there are things happening behind the scenes that nobody knows about,” he says cryptically, before going on to mention Rubio, Kasich, and “alliances emerging.” Hannity also asked Trump about Rubio in their interview Thursday night and Trump responded with, “Frankly, Marco, I’d love to have involved.” There doesn’t seem to be any hard feelings on either side despite Rubio’s (in)famous tactical shift in March towards insulting Trump personally at campaign stops. Hmmmm. I wonder who’ll give the better pro-Trump speech at the convention, Rubio or Cruz.
Speaking of Hannity, here’s Cruz on with Mark Levin speculating that Trump won’t come on Levin’s show because Levin won’t “kiss his behind.” Unlike some people, he doubtless would have liked to add.