Election 2020

No Longer an Open Senate Seat: Dems Quickly Launch Rubio Attacks

President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) get off Air Force One at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Fla., on June 16, 2016, as they prepared to visit the Pulse nightclub attack site. (Loren Elliott/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Democrats who thought they would be vying for an open Senate seat scoffed at Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) last-minute decision to run for re-election, but immediately began trying to mobilize and fundraise off the news.

“In politics, admitting you’ve changed your mind is not something most people like to do. But here it goes. I have decided to seek reelection to the United States Senate,” Rubio said in a statement today. “I understand my opponents will try to use this decision to score political points against me. Have at it. Because I have never claimed to be perfect, or to have all the answers.”

“No matter who is elected president, there is reason for worry,” Rubio explained. “…No matter who wins the White House, we need a strong group of principled, persuasive leaders in Congress who will not only advance limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense, but also explain to Americans how it makes life better for them and their families. I ultimately changed my mind about this race because on that front, and in that fight, I believe I have something to offer.”

The Democrats are embroiled in their contentious race for the nomination, with party leaders including President Obama making no secret of their preference for Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), who ousted Rep. Allen West in 2012, over notoriously unfiltered Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).

“Marco Rubio abandoned his constituents, and now he’s treating them like a consolation prize. Unlike Marco Rubio, I love working hard every single day for the people of Florida,” Murphy said in a statement this morning. “From missing the most votes of any Florida Senator in nearly 50 years, to seeking to ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest, to repeatedly voting against closing the terrorist gun loophole, Rubio is proving he is only out for himself.”

“Florida is ready for another Senator like Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, who is committed to doing this job and who will work with people to fight for progressive values,” he added.

On the landing page of Murphy’s website was an ominous-looking, reddened photo of Rubio and a sign-up form to “join the team to defeat Rubio.”

“Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have convinced Marco Rubio to run for the seat he abandoned. They know that Florida is the key to Senate control. Patrick Murphy is the only Democrat who can beat Rubio and turn the Senate blue,” Murphy’s site stated. “It’s 100 percent ESSENTIAL that we mobilize now to defeat Rubio this fall.”

Grayson, who uses the web address senatorwithguts.com for his campaign, responded with tweets:

Team Marco, meanwhile, tweeted: “You should go visit marcorubio.com right now. It’s what all the cool conservatives are doing.”

Grayson submitted his paperwork to run for Senate on Tuesday, prompting Murphy to release a list of reasons why his fellow Dem is not qualified to serve in the upper chamber, from “bullying and blustering his way through Congressional meetings and interviews to calling women and reporters vulgar names.”

“Whether he’s lining his own pockets with shady money, breaking ethics rules and federal law, or waging a legal battle against a pregnant worker, it is clear that Alan Grayson is not only unfit, but has wholly disqualified himself from representing Floridians in the U.S. Senate,” said Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf. “Alan Grayson has broken Floridians’ trust and we need a real leader like Patrick in the Senate.”

Murphy seemed to feel like the Rubio announcement was coming. This week, the congressman panned the GOP senator for voting against the Dems’ gun-control measures. “After the devastating attack in Orlando, Floridians are crying out for commonsense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists,” Murphy said Monday. “Tonight, Marco Rubio put his political ambition ahead of keeping Floridians safe.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made clear their strategy against Rubio, first accusing the senator of “cravenly using the deadliest mass shooting in American history as the springboard to go back on his word and further his political career.”

“Rubio simply couldn’t be bothered to show up for work, and when he asked Florida voters for a promotion in the Presidential primary, they swiftly shut him down and handed him a nearly 20 point loss to Donald Trump,” said DSCC communications director Sadie Werner. “That’s the same Donald Trump who Rubio called a “con artist” who couldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes who he has now heartily endorsed and will be forced to run alongside.”

In a Quinnipiac poll released today, Rubio leads Murphy 47-40 percent and Grayson 48-40 percent.

When asked Tuesday by reporters on Capitol Hill whether Rubio would run for re-election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) replied, “I sure hope so.”

“We know that the filing deadline in Florida is Friday and hope rings eternal and we are very hopeful that maybe Senator Marco Rubio will run again,” McConnell said.

Rubio had been scheduled to headline a campaign fundraiser for his friend, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, this Friday — also the Senate filing deadline.

“As friends for 20 years, this race is so much bigger than the two of us, and, as you have heard me say on the trail, this race isn’t about an individual, this race is about Florida and the future of our country,” Lopez-Cantera told supporters in an email last week. “I am still in this race and nothing has changed. However, if Marco decides to enter this race, I will not be filing the paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate.”

Lopez-Cantera had been lagging in the polls behind Reps. Dave Jolly (R-Fla.) and Ron De Santis (R-Fla.).