Florida still a toss-up

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE SHERFINSKI

Repub­li­cans cheered Sen. Marco Ru­bio’s de­ci­sion to re­verse course and seek re-elec­tion, but an­a­lysts said the move does lit­tle to change the Florida Se­nate race from toss-up sta­tus.

Mr. Ru­bio had re­peat­edly said he would not si­mul­ta­ne­ously run for re-elec­tion once he launched a 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid, but said the Se­nate is shap­ing up as a check on the power of the pres­i­dency and that the Florida race could de­ter­mine which party con­trols the cham­ber.

“I un­der­stand my op­po­nents will try to use this de­ci­sion to score po­lit­i­cal points against me. Have at it. Be­cause I have never claimed to be per­fect, or to have all the an­swers,” Mr. Ru­bio said.

The de­ci­sion was quickly cheered by his GOP Se­nate col­leagues, in­clud­ing Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who had run against Mr. Ru­bio in the 2016 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial race.

“Marco is a friend and has been an ally in many bat­tles we have fought to­gether in the Se­nate,” Mr. Cruz said. “I’m glad to sup­port him in his bid for re-elec­tion.”

The Se­nate Repub­li­cans’ cam­paign arm also said Mr. Ru­bio would have their “full sup­port” — even though Mr. Ru­bio still has to get through a GOP pri­mary.

Mr. Ru­bio’s de­ci­sion ahead of a June 24 fil­ing dead­line prompted Lt. Gov. Car­los Lopez-Can­tera and Rep. Ron DeSan­tis to bow out of the race, leav­ing busi­ness­man Car­los Beruff and for­mer CIA of­fi­cer Todd Wil­cox as the other can­di­dates on the Repub­li­can side.

Rep. David Jolly an­nounced last week he was drop­ping out of the race and would seek re-elec­tion.

But Mr. Ru­bio now faces a tough cam­paign and isn’t a shoo-in to get through the pri­mary, said Nathan Gon­za­les, edi­tor and pub­lisher of the non­par­ti­san Rothen­berg & Gon­za­les Po­lit­i­cal Re­port.

“Ru­bio’s de­ci­sion now puts him in the cat­e­gory with some of his col­leagues,” Mr. Gon­za­les said. “He’s a sen­a­tor run­ning for re-elec­tion in a very com­pet­i­tive state. I don’t think he can take the pri­mary for granted, and if he wins the pri­mary, then he’s go­ing to have a tough gen­eral elec­tion with Don­ald Trump at the top of the ticket.”

The Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port and “Larry Sa­bato’s Crys­tal Ball,” two other non­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal hand­i­cap­pers, like­wise said the race re­tains its “toss-up” sta­tus even with Mr. Ru­bio in the race.

As Mr. Ru­bio al­luded to, both Democrats and Mr. Beruff panned the de­ci­sion, with Rep. Pa­trick Mur­phy, one of the Demo­cratic can­di­dates, say­ing Mr. Ru­bio “aban­doned” his con­stituents and is now treat­ing them as a con­so­la­tion prize. Rep. Alan Grayson is also run­ning for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Another fac­tor will be likely GOP pre­sump­tive pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump, who Mr. Ru­bio has kept at arm’s length since drop­ping out of the race. Mr. Ru­bio has said he in­tends to sup­port Mr. Trump for pres­i­dent, but that he stands by his crit­i­cism of him dur­ing the pri­mary, which in­cluded ques­tion­ing whether Amer­i­cans should trust Mr. Trump with the United States’ nu­clear codes.

Mr. Ru­bio said in his state­ment an­nounc­ing his re-elec­tion that the prospect of a Trump pres­i­dency is “wor­ri­some” to him and that he finds some of Mr. Trump’s state­ments, es­pe­cially about women and mi­nori­ties, “not just of­fen­sive but un­ac­cept­able.”

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