Is Marco Rubio Just Too Miami for Republicans to Handle?
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons
Ted Cruz never called out Marco Rubio's "Miami values." Unlike efforts to paint Barack Obama as a product of that "corrupt Chicago political machine," few opponents have outright smeared Rubio as a product of Miami's Banana Republic-as-usual political world. In the 2010 Senate race, a Charlie Crist ally once lambasted Rubio as a “slick package from Miami." But not even Donald Trump has hurled anything like that insult at him in this campaign.
Yet, Rubio has been criticized and
"Miami’s reputation as an anything-goes town, one that takes pride in its bizarre crimes and carnival-like political culture, is well-earned," writes Noah Bierman. "Things that grab attention on a national stage are often viewed with a jaundiced eye here."
"Rubio’s alleged foibles, some of which he denies and others which he says are overblown, don’t hold a candle to the stuff that becomes lore around here — the U.S. attorney who resigned after being accused of biting a stripper in the 1990s; the one-time county commissioner who fled to Australia a few years later to avoid questions about a prostitute, a crack den and his stolen Mercedes; the former city official under investigation for corruption who shot himself in the Miami Herald’s lobby."
The headline? "In Miami, Marco Rubio's foibles are seen as South Florida's foibles."
Talk to Miamians who aren't on team Rubio and you'll find Democrats who just don't agree with his politics and Republicans who lament his lack of loyalty and an excess of hyper-ambition. His odd stance on climate change seems more locally important than those credit card mishaps and sketchy high school friends.
Yet browse Twitter or the national media, and it seems like the Rubio mini-scandals and squabbles that seem well, almost boring to us here in Miami, have more resonance elsewhere.
Heck, our own coverage of Rubio's foibles from the local perspective has been littered with a sense of, "Yeah, OK, but he's from Miami."
When the New York Times dug into Rubio's driving record, I responded with the mock-horror headline: "New York Times Shocker: Marco Rubio and His Wife Are Typical Miami Driver!" The punchline got a second act a few weeks later: "Latest New York Times Exposé: Marco Rubio Spends Like a Typical Miamian."
Sure, I took glee in writing about the fact that Rubio admitted to going to a South Beach foam party in the '90s, but by the time we saw the millionth (somehow, usually homophobic) joke about it on Twitter, like this one:
Little Marco on his way to a foam party, hey, where'd I put my high heels... Lyin' Ted looking for some snakes to chuck. God bless you.— Howie Carr (@HowieCarrShow) March 9, 2016
... we couldn't help but think, "Come on dude, it was South Beach in the '90s. Everyone was going to foam parties. Sometimes it just happened accidentally!"
When discussing in the office whether or not Rubio's high school social ties to a guy who owned a home that was used to shoot porn, we decided that it was worth getting the facts straight instead of leaving the story up to Twitter rumors and innuendo. Indeed, Tim Elfrink found that the story didn't really reflect negatively at all on Rubio. At it's most damning, the story was just an odd coincidence.
"It just goes to show you that no one gets through this city without accidentally having some loose tie to amateur porn," I joked at the time.
That didn't stop people from Trump supporters tweeting the story out like Rubio actually had serious ties to gay porn, even though, you know, the story itself debunked that notion.
Rubio's brother-in-law's '80s cocaine trafficking arrest? That really doesn't raise any eyebrows in this town, yet the connection gets brought up time and time again in national stories. We've heard more about Rubio's brother-in-law than we have any of the other candidate's actual siblings (well, with the exception of one of Jeb Bush's brothers). Since when does someone's sister marrying a loser have anything to do with one's fitness for office?
Odder still was Anderson Cooper's grilling Rubio about his affinity for electronic dance music at a CNN town hall event.
I watched and wondered if a politician from Texas would get questioned the same way for liking country music, or a California candidate about having a ska record collection in high school. Rubio awkwardly tried to sell dance music as almost as equally wholesome as Christian rock to the audience.
When Cooper asked Rubio if he'd ever been to a rave, I realized my own answer to the question might be a Bill Clinton-esque, "Well, that depends on what your definition of
Rubio never was directly criticized for being from Miami, but he did find himself in plenty of awkward situations defending things that, to Miamians, seem absolutely pedestrian.
If, as expected he loses in Florida tonight and perhaps ends his campaign, it won't simply be because of that. A more seasoned politician (and perhaps one with a more accomplished record to actually talk about) could have easily deflected all of that noise, but his essential Miami-ness certainly didn't help his cause.
The brashest critics on Twitter have used all of this, from foam parties to familial cocaine connections, to undercut Rubio's status as a serious politician ready for the White House.
Tellingly, according to polling, the only region of the state where he leads Donald Trump is the Miami metro area.