Facing renewed pressure from his Senate colleagues to run for re-election this fall, Sen. Marco Rubio voiced strong support today for “my very close friend” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
Rubio, who will speak at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch on Friday, talked this afternoon with Florida reporters in Washington and on a conference call. The former presidential candidate didn’t minimize his past differences with Donald Trump, but said Trump is a better choice for president than Democrat Hillary Clinton, whom he referred to twice as “corrupt.”
When Rubio launched his presidential campaign last year, he announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate even if his campaign failed. That touched off a five-candidate GOP scramble for his Senate seat in which no candidate has gained significant traction. Republicans in Washington are growing increasingly nervous about losing the seat — and control of the chamber — to Democrats and have urged Rubio to consider entering the Senate race before Florida’s June 24 deadline.
Rubio said he’s been “honored” by the talk, but noted Lopez-Cantera is a longtime friend and “I think he’s a great candidate. I think he’ll make a great Senator.” He hinted at a formal endorsement of Lopez-Cantera soon.
Rubio was asked if he’d change his mind about the Senate race if he were persuaded that doing so would preserve the GOP’s control of the Senate.
Said Rubio: “I think Carlos Lopez-Cantera is a very good candidate so I understand the argument and the people who are coming forward and asking me to reconsider are people I respect and enjoy serving with, but I have a really good friend running for the Senate who I think is a good candidate, who I think gives us a real good chance to win if he were to be nominated.”
Rubio this month told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “I intend to” support Trump as the GOP nominee, but stopped short of flatly declaring he’d do so. He offered stronger support for Trump today.
“I obviously have real reservations about some of the things he has said and done during the campaign. I also think he happens to be substantially better than Hillary Clinton,” Rubio said. He specifically mentioned Trump’s stance on repealing Obamacare, his promise to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court and his stated opposition to abortion.
“When you look at some of the issues that I care about deeply, he’s way better than she is and this is a binary choice…I’m going to support him. I’m going to vote for him. I think Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. I think she’s corrupt. I think she habitually misleads. And I think everywhere the Clintons go they bring their drama with them and this country really can’t afford that right now.”
Later, a reporter asked Rubio how he could support Trump after calling him a “con man” and offering other harsh criticisms.
“Well, because the only other choice is someone who I believe is corrupt, someone who I know has spent an entire career misleading people, including in her time as the secretary of state, is someone who I disagree wth on virtually every major issue before our country – Hillary Clinton. And I’m not supporting her and I’m not going to abstain from voting….elections are binary choices,” Rubio said.
Rubio also got a few digs in at U.S. Rep. and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a fellow South Floridian who’s been an ideological adversary since their days in the Florida Legislature.
Trump’s candidacy has highlighted divisions within the GOP, but Rubio said, “It’s not as divided as the Democratic Party, where people are throwing chairs and punches at each other, where Bernie Sanders has no chance to win and yet he’s still in the race beating up on Hillary Clinton. I mean, they’re the ones that are about to remove their chairman.”