.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a strong election pitch Thursday night — to elect Donald Trump president.
“The time for us to come together as a party has arrived, or we are going to face the catastrophic reality of a Hillary Clinton presidency, which is unacceptable,” Rubio said. “We must be united and we must be victorious in November.”
The re-election-seeking U.S. senator delivered his pro-Trump message to a sympathetic audience of party activists and donors 12 days before Rubio wants Republicans to nominate him to run for a second term.
His support for Trump, whose name he mentioned only once, is notable. It came the same day Democrats unleashed an ad attempting to tie Trump to Rubio.
Trump has been criticized, by many Republican national security experts as well as Democrats, for what they say is a softer posture than Clinton toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Trump has also been criticized for suggesting the U.S. might not be as steadfast in its commitment to NATO.
But Rubio said it’s President Barack Obama’s administration that has made the U.S. less safe in the face of the “aggressiveness of Vladimir Putin that threatens the NATO alliance.”
He also said Obama has “gutted our military” and “it is failing to keep us safe, even as the world grows more dangerous.”
He said Trump has promised to nominate a Supreme Court justice in the mold of the late conservative Antonin Scalia. He said there’s “zero percent” chance Clinton would nominate a conservative.
Rubio also pitched his own candidacy.
As a safety measure, Rubio said, Florida needs to return him to the Senate just in case Clinton is elected. A Republican-controlled Senate would put the brakes on a Clinton attempt to move the court in a liberal direction; a Democratic Senate would accelerate in a liberal direction.
And, like many political analysts, Rubio said the outcome of his race could determine control of the Senate.
“We cannot lose Florida. This is the largest, most important swing state in the country, and we have got to go out and win this up and down the ballot,” he said.
Rubio never mentioned his Republican primary opponent, Carlos Beruff, but he had plenty to say about the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to run for U.S. Senate.
One of the Democrats, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, is “literally insane,” Rubio said. “I just don’t think he’s well. I’m serious about it.”
He was even more critical of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.
Rubio called Murphy “one of the most unaccomplished individuals in the U.S. Congress” who has “never achieved anything meaningful in his life and therefore had to lie on his resume.”
He mocked the claim from Murphy, the scion of a wealthy family, that he was a small businessman. “If he’s a small business owner, than I’m a cardinal in the Catholic Church.”
He said Murphy is “someone who never in his life” has suffered or had the worries of average working people, and offered more mocking punchlines.
“It’s true, he came over from Fisher Island, in search of a better life,” said Rubio, the son of a hotel banquet bartender and a maid. “Life on Fisher Island is tough. They don’t have a hospital. They don’t have an airport. And the tee times take way too long. So yeah, it’s tough.”
He said Murphy would be “a rubber stamp for this dangerous agenda” from Obama and Clinton.
On Thursday morning, Murphy released a scorching video attack on Rubio, aimed at attaching Trump to the Republican senator like an anchor.
The Murphy ad featured news clips of Rubio calling Trump a con artist when they were both running for the Republican presidential nomination, a clip from Trump in Sunrise in which he said he supports Rubio’s re-election and Rubio supports him, and TV pundits wondering how Rubio can support Trump.
Five minutes later, Rubio’s campaign put out its own ad — a warm and fuzzy spot designed to show him as a compassionate advocate for the needs of Floridians. It features an Orlando woman, Blanquita Trabold, praising Rubio for his help getting cancer medication that wasn’t yet approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for her daughter.
Both ads seemed aimed at overcoming — or exploiting — potential Rubio weaknesses.
A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday reported that 63 percent of Florida voters are unaware that Rubio is supporting Trump. Although 64 percent of Florida voters said Rubio’s support for Trump wouldn’t affect their vote for Senate, 25 percent said it makes them less likely to vote for Rubio. Another 9 percent said it would make it more likely that they’d vote for Rubio. Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a written poll analysis that “Rubio’s endorsement of Trump could come back to bite him if more voters actually learn about it.”
Monmouth found that 53 percent of Florida voters believe Rubio’s decision to run for re-election is more to improve his chances for a future presidential run; just 25 percent thought he was more motivated by a desire to serve the public. The Rubio spot could help turn around that impression.
Rubio’s ad was paid for by the national Republican Party committee in charge of electing Republicans to the Senate — a move that allows Rubio to conserve his own cash for the fall campaign.
The Rubio camp also said Thursday he raised $3.25 million from July 1 through Aug. 10 on top of the $2.2 million he took in from his June 22 re-election announcement and June 30. Those numbers don’t count the money raised by a pro-Rubio Super PAC.
Thursday night’s event, the annual Lobsterfest, was a fundraiser for the Palm Beach County Republican Party. Republican Chairman Michael Barnett said the event, which drew about 320 people, would net about $25,000 after expenses.