Marco Rubio really scares Democrats… and not just in Florida.
At first Democrats hoped that Florida’s Republican Governor would beat the young upstart in the GOP Senate primary so they wouldn’t have to deal with him, but began to get nervous when he literally forced Charlie Crist out of the GOP.
Early summer polls, however, encouraged them to believe Crist might just win a three-way race or split the GOP vote to allow the Democratic nominee to win.
By mid-summer it was becoming clear that this wasn’t happening. Unless they could help Crist, it became increasingly likely that Rubio would win so Democrats began hinting that a two-way race between Crist and Rubio might be preferable. They believed that in such a race Crist might convincingly appeal to Republican moderates, independents and Democrats, force Rubio into a corner and defeat him.
The strategy was temporarily abandoned, however, once Representative Kendrick Meek secured the Democratic nomination. Democrats didn’t want to be seen abandoning an African-American Senate candidate at a time when they were working tirelessly to increase African-American turnout in November.
But as Rubio opened an almost insurmountable lead, the strategy was revisited. Former President Bill Clinton headed to Florida and urged Meek to take one for the Party. Rubio was nearing 45% in the polls and it was clear to everyone that he would win unless something was done and done quickly. What Clinton proposed was that Meek bail out, throw his support to Crist, and thus ensure himself a great future in a party that would be forever grateful.
It was a heckuva a gamble. We’ll never know whether Meek at first agreed to go along with the strategy (as Clinton alleges) or rejected it outright (as Meek insists), but risking the animosity of African-American voters in Florida and perhaps elsewhere in what even Clinton has to have known was a long-shot attempt to stop Rubio says a lot.
It wasn’t as if control of the Senate would hinge on the Florida race and Democrats had to know that if the ploy had succeeded, African-American turnout in the state would almost certainly have fallen, risking any chance at winning the governorship.
A few Democratic professionals hinted at the reasons for taking such a risk. They are afraid of Marco Rubio. He is not just a conservative, but one of the most articulate and persuasive conservatives of his generation. He ran a virtually flawless campaign against tremendous odds and has a life story as dramatic as Obama’s which he relates as fluently and convincingly as a young Reagan.
These are the qualities that have made him such a hero to conservatives in Florida and around the country, but Democrats fear Rubio for another and to them far more important reason.
Remember Miguel Estrada? He was nominated by George W. Bush to sit on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2001. Estrada had served in the Justice Department, worked as a Deputy US Attorney, clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Kennedy and was a magne cum laude graduate of the Harvard Law School where he had edited the school’s law review.
He won rave reviews from the American Bar Association and had the support of a clear majority in the Senate, but Senate Democrats went nuts at the very thought of confirming him. Bush finally withdrew Estrada’s nomination after the GOP failed six times to halt the first ever filibuster of an appeals court nominee.
Internal memos leaked at the time from Democratic Senator Dick Durbin’s office made it cleat that Democrats felt Estrada had to be defeated because, as one put it, “he is Latino.” Durbin assured reporters that this was meant not in a racist sense, but because Estrada could prove “politically dangerous.
Durbin and his colleagues feared that if they didn’t kill him in his judicial crib, Miguel Estrada might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court by a Republican President and they would find themselves forced to oppose a nominee with broad appeal to voters they consider their own.
In a very real sense, the Democratic fear of Marco Rubio is similarly motivated. It’s bad enough that the man is both a conservative and one of the most articulate candidates of either party to face America’s voters this fall. What they saw as far worse, however, was that if Rubio won, he might well become not just a GOP super star, but a conservative Republican Hispanic superstar with the talent to severely cripple the Democratic stranglehold on a crucial Democratic voting bloc.
They were right, of course, but Marco Rubio won on Tuesday and their worst nightmare could come true sooner than they imagined.