Rather than feeling sorry for itself after its Nov. 6 defeat, the Republican party is picking itself up, dusting itself off and looking ahead (emphatically not “Forward”) to 2016. And as it does, thoughts are beginning to turn to Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio is also looking ahead. According to exit polls, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney only captured about one-fourth of the Hispanic vote. Rubio means to correct this situation.
In a statement made less than two hours after Romney’s concession speech, Rubio said, “The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.”
Rubio, 41, should know what he’s talking about. Not only is the Miami native of Cuban-American heritage, but he also won what began as an against-all-odds victory against then-popular Gov. Charlie Crist for his senate seat.
According to Ledyard King, writing for USA Today, “In the past, Rubio has downplayed national ambitions even when his name came up constantly last summer as a vice presidential contender.”
However, he made an appearance last Saturday in Iowa, ostensibly to help celebrate the birthday of that state’s Gov. Terry Branstad. The combination birthday bash and fundraiser was attended by 700 Republicans, all eager to hear what Rubio had to say. One can’t help but notice that Iowa is prominent as the country’s first presidential caucus state.
Lois Romano, writing for Politico, observed:
Rubio had the spotlight all to himself — he said he was merely here to help the governor mark his 66th birthday, but no one believed it for a minute.
The appearance of the Republican Party’s most prominent Latino face in Iowa — a state President Barack Obama won by six points on Election Day — was no casual drop-by after the drubbing Mitt Romney took among Hispanics nationally.
Making a joke of a possible run in 2016, he told the crowd, “Look, let’s just address right upfront the elephant in the room, because anytime anyone makes a trip to Iowa people start speculating about what you’re going to do in the future and all that, so let me just be blunt. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a candidate for offensive coordinator for Iowa,” The room erupted in laughter and applause. This remark came mere hours after the Iowa Hawkeyes lost a fifth straight game.
When the event was over, Gov. Branstad said that it was his biggest fundraiser ever. The attendees contributed over half a million dollars to his 2014 reelection campaign. A sign of things to come for Rubio in 2016?