When Rubio-Murphy square-off in tonight’s debate, Trump will be a weapon both use

Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy at last week's debate.

Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy at last week’s debate.

When Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy square off tonight for their second and likely final TV debate of the U.S. Senate race, a third candidate will basically be on stage:

GOP presidential contender Donald Trump.

Murphy has scorched Rubio for standing by his endorsement of Trump — through all the White House candidate’s cringe-worthy moments.

But Rubio has also found a way to turn Trump as a weapon against his Democratic rival.

For those who like drinking games and have a designated driver, taking a slug after every Trump reference tonight could prove both illuminating and intoxicating.

Rubio has managed to keep his distance from Trump’s many campaign appearances in Florida. But Murphy’s line of attack is certain to be repeated at tonight’s hour-long debate from Broward College, to be aired on WPBF-TV Channel 25 in West Palm Beach and other TV stations statewide beginning at 7 p.m.

Indeed, in a Florida Democratic Party email sent out raising five questions Rubio should answer tonight — four involved Trump.

But Rubio also is poised to bring up Trump.

Watch for Rubio to repeat allegations raised in last week’s first debate that Murphy’s construction industry family has made millions of dollars from its association with Trump.

The Trump Royale in Sunny Isles and Trump Hollywood in Hollywood are condo towers both built by Coastal Construction Group, whose CEO is Thomas Murphy, the Democrat’s father and a major contributor to his son’s campaign.

Patrick Murphy also was a vice president at the company before elected to Congress in 2012. Murphy, however, last week accused Rubio of lying when he raised the Democrat’s Trump connection.

Since then, the Murphy campaign has stood by the candidate’s statement, pointing out that Coastal’s contracts were not directly with Trump.

Earlier this year — after a similar allegation was raised by Murphy primary opponent, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando — Thomas Murphy told the Palm Beach Post that Coastal was hired by The Related Companies to build Trump Hollywood and by Dezer Development to build Trump Royale.

The developers paid Trump a licensing fee to use his name on the buildings, but Trump did not have any ownership stake in either of them, Thomas Murphy told the Post.

The Rubio campaign, though, says Murphy is misleading when he dismisses having any relationship with Trump.

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayan called the Rubio counter “laughable” and “desperate” on the Republican’s part.

“Marco Rubio is trying to use his own pick for president to attack Patrick,” she said.


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