Former presidential candidate Marco Rubio announced his official Senate re-election campaign Wednesday, confirming a report from the Washington Post. This move reverses a pledge the candidate made last year to either assume the presidency or return to private life in Florida. It also gives Republicans a better shot at holding onto their majority in the U.S. Senate.
Rubio justified his decision to seek re-election in terms of checking the power of the presidency, no matter who wins in November.
“I think that the point that really drove me to change my mind is that as we enter this kind of new chapter in our history here is, there’s another role the Senate plays that I think den be really important in the years to come,” Rubio declared. “That’s the power given to it in the Constitution to act as a check and balance on the excess of the president. It’s even more important given the fact that control of the Senate could very well come down to what happens in the Florida race.”
Rubio emphasized that “no matter who’s elected president, there’s reason to worry. If it’s Hillary Clinton, you know we’re going to have four more years of the same failed economic policies, for more years of the same failed foreign policy,” he said, echoing general Republican concerns about the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua.
But Rubio also expressed similar worries about The Donald moving into the Oval Office. “The prospect of a Trump presidency is also worrisome to me in many ways. It’s no secret that I have significant disagreements with Donald,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Florida senator declared that he is “done making … unequivocal statements about anything at this point.” He addressed speculation about a potential 2020 presidential run, saying that if it was indeed his plan, “running for re-election in 2016 was probably not the best choice to make politically.”
“I can tell you that I’m fully committed to coming back and making my mark in the Senate, working hard,” Rubio added. “I can say this to you: If the last political office I hold is to be a senator from Florida, I am fine with that.”
This declaration confirmed an earlier report from the Washington Post: “Rubio is set to announce the decision sometime Wednesday, according to three people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it before a formal announcement.”
His entry into the race comes before a Friday filing deadline, and after weeks of pressure from Republican leaders who urged Rubio to reconsider his pledge.
Rubio’s announcement confirms rumors that he would jump into the Senate race, following the withdrawal (last Friday) of Representative David Jolly, the Republican frontrunner in the primary.
Next Page: What the primary looks like, now that Rubio is in.
While national Republican leaders are likely to hail Rubio’s entry into the race, it will make the (already crowded) primary extremely awkward. He polls only slightly better against the Democratic candidates than Rep. Ron DeSantis, who was second to Jolly in the RealClearPolitics average.
DeSantis also has a list of endorsements, including former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Utah Senator Mike Lee, along with conservative organizations like the Club for Growth, the Family Research Council, FreedomWorks, and Citizens United. Rubio enjoyed the support of many of these groups in his own 2010 primary, and counts Mike Lee as a friend in the Senate.
Then there’s Carlos Beruff, the anti-establishment candidate, who led in the most recent Republican primary poll, but falls well behind the top Democratic candidates by 9.5 points and 5 points, respectively.
Beruff, a blustering businessman outsider — a Donald Trump knock-off — said he thinks he can beat Rubio. “Many reporters and pundits appear to be living in a parallel universe, as they claim that Rubio will be hard to beat. Really? He just got demolished three months ago by the same jury he would face on August 30,” said a Beruff campaign memo. “This may be expensive, but it’s not hard.”
Nevertheless, this move silences confusion about Rubio’s potential to run for president again in 2020. As a current senator, he would have a greater standing in a future presidential run, and such a candidacy would also benefit from the absence of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose campaign spent heavily against Rubio in this year’s primary.
Rubio has mocked media reports based on anonymous sources in the past — stay tuned to see whether or not he does actually announce later today.