By Lynn R. Mitchell
It was fully expected by many that Florida Senator Marco Rubio would not seek the Republican nomination for President in 2016 if his mentor and former Governor Jeb Bush, 62, ran. It was hoped that Rubio, 43, would seek reelection to the U.S. Senate but he decided not to wait, a puzzling fact to fellow Floridians whose loyalties go to one candidate or the other.
It appears that Jeb, who basically built the Republican Party in Florida before winning the gubernatorial election that he held for two terms, is winning over most of the political class in the state he calls home. With his mentee in the race, who benefited much from his guidance and connections, some are looking at Jeb’s tactics in how he will run against Rubio (see Here’s how Jeb will run against Marco Rubio by political reporter David Catanese in U.S. News and World Report).
On tax cuts:
The overarching tactic Bush seems ready to employ is to use Rubio’s Washington experience against him, comparing his short time in the senate to Bush’s eight years as governor.
First, there’s tax cuts — the holy grail of Republican politics.
Bush won’t sign a promise not to ever raise taxes, but he notes that he cut taxes every year as governor.
“I don’t have to be told how important that is. I did it,” he told an audience [Thursday] at the National Review Ideas Summit in Washington. “If you served in the United States Senate over the last eight years, six years, no tax cut has taken place. Anyone associated with Washington, D.C., can talk about all this stuff but the places where the taxes have been cut are in places like Florida led by a conservative governor who thought this was important.”
On national security and Rubio’s shot at presidential candidates who have been governors:
“There’s no way they’ll be ready on day one to manage U.S. foreign policy,” Rubio recently told The Des Moines Register recently during a trip to Iowa.
Bush scoffed at that notion when it was mentioned to him by National Review’s Rich Lowry.
“Wow, I mean, let me think. Ronald Reagan?,” he tartly replied. “Governors actually have to make decisions, they have to say ‘no’ to people, they have to speak English. They have to lead, they have to make decisions, they have to persuade, they have to convince, they actually have to compromise from time to time. And those skills apply directly to the presidency. And there are enough examples of governors who have been extraordinary leaders in foreign policy.”
This answer could put Rubio in the awkward position of having to explain how the last two two-term GOP presidents — Reagan and George W. Bush — navigated foreign affairs with only a governorship on their resumes.
While Rubio has walked away from his push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, Bush has stood firm.
Prodded again Thursday about his belief that a path to legalization is needed for undocumented immigrants, Bush did not waver.
“I just think you’re wrong on immigration and you think I’m wrong,” Bush told Lowry.
His stance amid the political pressure allows Bush to look courageous compared to Rubio, who headed for the hills once the pressure became too intense and his poll numbers took a dive.
Rubio’s position became essentially that he tried his best, but realized the politics were unattainable. Bush’s view is that immigration reform is a necessity, not only substantively, but politically, for the future of the GOP.
“We’re going to turn people into Republicans if we’re much more aspirational in our message,” he said.
In the typical Bush family way, Jeb will not directly attack his mentee but he will use his experience and leadership abilities to show the differences between himself and Rubio.
Rubio’s past actions are well documented: embracing immigration reform before backing away because of opposition (see Rubio’s switch on immigration not winning fans), his support with Ted Cruz in shutting down the government in 2013, then his vote against reopening the government (see Who voted against the Senate bill to end the government shutdown),and now as America struggles to deal with the situation in Iran (see As Iran runs amok, freshman senators go off the rails by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post).
Historically, Americans have favored governors over senators when electing a president. In stepping out for 2016, Rubio may find he’s facing a formidable stone wall. Stay tuned….