Florida still a toss-up
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.”