Is Marco Rubio Just Too Miami for Republicans to Handle?

Ted Cruz never called out Marco Rubio's so-called Miami values. Unlike efforts to paint Barack Obama as a product of that "corrupt Chicago political machine," few opponents have 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 needled nationally for things that seem, well, absolutely normal to Miamians. That's something locals sensed but maybe didn't fully appreciate until the Los Angeles Times pointed it out this weekend

"Miami’s reputation as an anything-goes town, one that takes pride in its bizarre crimes and carnival-like political culture, is well-earned. Things that grab attention on a national stage are often viewed with a jaundiced eye here," Noah Bierman writes.  

"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 onetime 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 hyperambition. 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 Miamians have more resonance elsewhere. 

Heck, New Times' 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, this reporter responded with the mock-horror headline: "New York Times Shocker: Marco Rubio and His Wife Are Typical Miami Drivers" The punch line 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: 
— 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! 

Discussing in the office whether Rubio's high school social ties to a guy who owned a home that was used to shoot porn, New Times staffers decided it was worth getting the facts straight instead of leaving the story up to Twitter rumors and innuendo. Indeed, Tim Elfrink discovered that the story didn't really reflect negatively 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 like Trump supporters from tweeting the story 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 candidates' 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 be 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 wholesome as Christian rock to the audience. 

When Cooper asked Rubio if he had ever been to a rave, I realized my own answer to the question might be a Bill Clinton-esque "Well, that depends on your definition of a rave. Like, authentic full-on '90s-style rave?" Then again, who in Miami hasn't been to a party that people in most other parts of America might consider a rave? 

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, his Miami connection won't be to blame for his failure. 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 the above — 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 part of the state where he leads Donald Trump is the Miami metro area.