Marco Rubio’s campaign for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat has seen highs and lows in poll numbers.
An underdog when he declared his candidacy in May 2009, Rubio built a 29-point lead in less than a year over primary opponent and sitting Florida Gov. Charlie Crist before Crist shook up the race by changing his party affiliation. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Rubio tied with now independent Crist and both potential Democrat candidates trailing far behind.
But as Rubio sees it, he’s running against two of the same kind of politician. Crist’s summer makeover has included swings to the left, such as dropping the pro-life language from his website.
“I’m running against two Democrats,” Rubio said. “Only one of them is being up front about it.”
Though the dynamics of the race has changed, Rubio’s message hasn’t. Last September, he dismissed talk of slow fundraising (which has since skyrocketed) or glitzy endorsements (which eventually came) for a standard conservative message of fiscal responsibility and getting the economy going again.
At a small gathering of reporters and conservatives bloggers in Washington last week, Rubio said the No. 1 issue facing the United States is the country’s debt. He said he would use a seat in the U.S. Senate to promote reform of entitlement programs and simplifying the tax code.
And as for the sudden tightening in the polls, Rubio remained upbeat, much like last year during his fundraising struggle. Rubio says he still has many more people to get his message out to, particularly those who aren’t affiliated with any particular party.
“There’s still a lot of Floridians that are unaware that this election’s happening, or what the choices are,” Rubio said. “Once people understand that this is a race between someone with good ideas, someone with bad ideas, and someone with no ideas, I think they’re going to pick the people with good ideas.”
Rubio also believes the “liberal establishment” is hedging its bets in Florida.
“I think it’s an effort by the liberal establishment both in Washington and across the country to hold onto a yes vote for their agenda,” Rubio said. “They’re hedging their bets in Florida.”
For Florida’s benefit, Rubio thinks Crist needs to exert more pressure on the Obama Administration regarding the oil spill, since oil is beginning to wash up on Florida’s beaches.
“Compared to what’s happening in Louisiana, where Gov. Jindal [is] constantly pressuring the federal government for more resources for his state, in Florida, the governor has said he thinks Barack Obama is doing a good job,” Rubio said. “He has said that, on the record … The evidence he’s not doing a good job is that oil is now washing up on our beaches.”
Rubio also commented on immigration, saying that securing America’s borders should be the first step before changing the nation’s immigration policy, which he made clear should not include amnesty. He was supportive of tools like e-verify, a program with a successful track record of helping employers determine someone’s immigration status, and also of simplifying the visa process, since there are 19 different visa programs that Rubio described as “bureaucratic.”