In recent weeks we’ve seen increasing attacks on Sen. Marco Rubio from both Donald Trump and Gov. Jeb Bush
Trump has called Rubio a “lightweight” and said that he’s weak on illegal immigration, while Gov. Bush has attacked Rubio for missing votes in the Senate. Rubio successfully countered Bush’s claims in the last debate — suggesting that Gov. Bush’s attacks were purely political given that he endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008, when McCain had missed more votes.
Both of these attacks come across as very weak in the current electorate, and I don’t see either of the attacks being successful against Sen. Rubio.
First, Rubio has already suffered the brunt of the immigration hits — there’s no news there. GOP voters already know that Rubio was part of the Senate Gang of Eight in 2013. Rubio has since distanced himself from comprehensive reform and endorsed piecemeal legislation. Further, the anti-immigration vote has already been cornered by Trump, while the portion of Rubio’s vote that is anti-immigration is most likely nil.
I’m not sure what Trump’s strategy is here. Does he really think that his supporters are leaving him for Rubio? That’s highly doubtful. If anything, Trump should be concerned about his supporters leaving him for Dr. Ben Carson or Sen. Ted Cruz — which Trump may already be on to.
Secondly, attacking a candidate for spending less time in Washington during this cycle is not going to be the best way to rise in the polls. Continuing to attack Rubio on that issue even after he’s successfully rebutted it and pointed out your own hypocrisy is more quixotic. Newsflash: the Republican electorate has given up on the current Congress to make the right decisions. Rubio skipping votes to campaign for president is probably a net positive.
Neither of these attacks will hurt Rubio, but they may, in fact, actually gain him support by allowing him a bigger spotlight and more media opportunities.
Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.