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Will Rubio run?

Can a tiger change its stripes?

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  • | 9:00 a.m. June 2, 2016
  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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It’s just the kind of story the media love: Will Marco Rubio reverse course and decide to run for re-election? 

He has until June 24 to decide — the deadline for filing.

So far, Rubio has said no. He told reporters in Washington last week: “I didn’t think it was fair for me to run for president and freeze that seat in a competitive state. So I made my decision. I don’t have anything new to say from what I said in the past ... I made that decision, and I’ve lived by that decision. Nothing’s changed.”

Except the outside influence is intensifying.

Take U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Politico reported last week: 

“Mitch McConnell conducted a survey on Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday. At a GOP caucus lunch, he asked senators whether they’d like to see Rubio run for re-election. Every hand in the room went up. 

“And then the Senate majority leader told senators to get to work persuading Rubio to ditch his retirement from the chamber after one term and run again, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”

On Tuesday, McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt: “… We’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He’s been back in the Senate for six weeks. He’s, I believe, enjoying it, and being effective.

“So I haven’t given up hope,” McConnell said. “He hasn’t said yes yet, but there are an awful lot of us who think that it would not only be good for him and for Florida, but good for the Senate if he ran again.”

Even the Donald fueled the fire with his Tweet last week. One of those polls, a Mason-Dixon poll conducted almost three months ago when Rubio was still in the presidential race, showed Rubio would handily defeat Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, regarded as the Democrats’ favorite.  

Here in Florida, though, the urgings to run have been more muted. Worth noting is former Gov. Jeb Bush has not weighed in on Rubio’s behalf. And yet Bush is among top national Republicans who are campaigning nationally to retain a Republican majority in the Senate. Bush’s endorsement of Rubio probably isn’t likely, especially given how their friendship became demonstrably diminished during the presidential campaign.

One of the few prominent Florida Republicans urging Rubio to run again is Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. He told the Tampa Bay Times: “He is the best person to serve in the United States Senate, and he would be the best candidate to prevail. 

Atwater, who has known Rubio for 16 years, serving with him in Legislature, told the Times Rubio was “absolutely genuine” when he announced he would not seek another term. But at the same time, Atwater said Rubio should consider all those urging him to run.

Asked how Rubio changing his mind would be viewed, Atwater said, “No one would see it as anything other than Marco being genuine from the start. He would be answering our call.”

Rubio confidantes, meanwhile, say a Rubio candidacy is not going to happen. Ana Navaro, a Rubio ally told Politico: “There’s no shot in hell Marco runs for his seat again … Marco needs to make money. He has four kids in private school and to put through college in near future. He has no trust fund or nest egg. Marco told me the first week after being elected that he did not want to ‘be a lifer’ in the Senate. I think that’s true. He’s impatient and lives life quickly.”

For now, the Rubio watch will remain a hot media story (we fell for it). And for good reason. Republicans desperately want to maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate. And as always, Florida is a swing state, with voters swinging over the past few months more in favor of the Democratic Senate candidates of Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson than the five unknown Republican candidates.

Will Rubio run? If you’ve watched Rubio’s political career from the day he began serving on the West Miami City Commission in 1998, he has pursued — doggedly and determinedly — the next highest office, sharpening his gift of speaking at every step.

Former colleagues in the Legislature find it difficult to believe Rubio will walk away from the only job he has ever pursued — politics and public policy. You can be sure he is conflicted: Stay in the arena he knows best and where he likely can win, or go on the speaking circuit and into the private sector to earn as much money as he can while his name is in demand.

We’ll know the answer no later than June 24. But our bet: Tigers can’t change their stripes.


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