Since he telegraphed this latest flip-flop extensively, even attributing it somewhat clumsily to how he was “impacted” by the Orlando massacre, no one will be surprised when Marco Rubio announces today that he will, after all, run for a second term in the Senate. Thanks to his many pledges not to do this, he will immediately have to sit down and eat bowl after bowl of his own words. But a bigger problem is probably the contempt he so often showed for the Senate during his presidential campaign, brushing off missed votes as meaningless and all but blaming his immigration-policy albatross on the corrupt and corrupting nature of Congress.
It probably won’t help Rubio’s frayed reputation for consistency that the very symbol of the congressional RINOism he deplored on the campaign trail, Mitch McConnell, is being given a great deal of credit for talking the Floridian into reversing course once again. But for ol’ Mitch all that matters is that Rubio may have improved his odds of holding on to his gavel. And even Li’l Marco’s nemesis, Donald Trump, tweeted his congratulations, also citing the conventional wisdom that Rubio will help maintain the GOP hold on the Senate.
The race will not be the cakewalk, however, that it might have been had Rubio not detoured into a disastrous presidential campaign that culminated with a landslide loss to Trump in his own state. While the most formidable GOP candidates in the race to succeed Rubio, representatives David Jolly and Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, are all getting out of Rubio’s way, there are two potentially self-funding “outsiders” who could pick right up where Trump left off in mocking the incumbent as both calculating and ineffective. The general election will be much tougher, especially if Democratic Establishment darling Representative Patrick Murphy gets past fiery lefty Representative Alan Grayson to win the nomination. There are two very recent polls of this race that point in different directions. Quinnipiac has Rubio up 47-40 over Murphy (and 48-4o over Grayson). But PPP has Murphy up 42-41, with Rubio well underwater with a 30-49 job approval rating and his ability to stay even with Murphy depending on the temporary phenomenon of higher name ID.
Clearly, Rubio’s path to reelection will be to win the entire Trump vote in what will presumably be a relatively competitive presidential contest in Florida, and then top up his totals with a significantly better performance than the presidential candidate among Hispanics, and especially Rubio’s fellow Cuban-Americans. But he won’t have any margin for error. And he might want to start his comeback bid by showing a little more constancy and a lot less willingness to turn and spin in the wind. We all know from his famous performance in that New Hampshire primary debate that Marco Rubio is capable of staying on message, even when he shouldn’t. If there’s ever a time for Rubio to get in touch with his inner robot, it’s now.