Asked Rubio if he would reconsider Senate bid. "I'm not focused on that." I note he has till June. He walks away, turns and says "June 24"
— Lauren Fox (@FoxReports) May 12, 2016
I think he’s 90 percent committed to leaving at the end of this term, as he’s promised to do, but I’d hang onto that last 10 percent for a few weeks longer. Granted, he’s already (sort of) endorsed Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and is hosting a fundraiser for him next week, but Lopez-Cantera is a slight underdog in the Senate GOP primary according to political pros in Florida. (The polls there are all but useless right now.) The likely, but not certain, Democratic nominee for the seat is 33-year-old GOPer-turned-Dem Patrick Murphy, who knocked off Allen West a few years ago and then won his Republican-leaning district in 2014, the year of another red wave, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. If Murphy wins this fall, he could have that seat locked up for a long, long time.
Here’s how Murphy matches up with the four Republicans competing in the GOP primary according to a recent poll of Florida. If you’re the NRSC, you’re staring very hard at that right-most column.
That’s due in part to Rubio’s huge name-recognition advantage but also to the fact that he wins Hispanics, 55/40. This same poll found Trump trailing Hillary by 13 points in the presidential race thanks to a favorable rating among Florida Hispanics of — no typo — 10/87. Just yesterday, Miami’s Cuban-born mayor (who backed Rubio for president) told the Herald that he won’t support Trump for president. If you’re worried that Florida will end up breaking blue thanks in part to a Latino backlash against Trump there, Rubio’s obviously your best hedge against it. Party leaders could pull Lopez-Cantera aside and promise to back him in the gubernatorial race two years from now if he’ll step aside and clear a path for Rubio. David Jolly, the favorite in the primary right now, would need to be persuaded to cool his jets for two more years and challenge Bill Nelson for his seat in 2018 — a tougher challenge in that he’d be facing an incumbent but winnable given that midterm elections tend to trend red. (And there’s always the chance that Nelson will retire.) I guarantee that Republican leaders are leaning on Rubio behind closed doors to reconsider and get in.
Would he consider it, though? The guy already suffered one withering humiliation on his home field in March. Asking him to risk another in November is asking a lot, especially if Rubio’s of the opinion that’s Trump headed for a blowout defeat. The weaker the presidential nominee is, the stronger the current against Rubio would be, and if he loses his seat he’s all but done as a presidential prospect going forward. And of course, if he ran again, he’d spend the rest of the campaign fielding questions about Trump and his unfitness for office. If you saw his interview with Tapper a few days ago, you know how palpably uncomfortable (and deeply confused) his message on that is. Can’t fault the guy for deciding that he’s had enough aggravation for awhile and would rather go make a seven-figure payday somewhere for a few years. Although, help me figure this out: If he’s backing Trump purely for the sake of being a good soldier for his party, shouldn’t he be willing to be an even better soldier by running again for Senate if they desperately need him to? Mitch McConnell and the NRSC care a lot more about the latter than the former. And if you believe Politico, Rubio’s learned to enjoy his job ever since he dropped out of the primaries and came back to Washington. Like I say, 90 percent chance he won’t run again. But no more than that.