Listening to the pain in Sen. Marco Rubio’s voice during an interview on This Week it dawned on me that he may just offer himself as a conservative third party alternative to Donald Trump this fall.
I know, you’re skeptical. But think about it for a second. Marco Rubio is not seeking reelection in Florida this year. He banked his entire career on his presidential bid. Once he’s out of the Republican nomination fight, he’s a free agent.
Trump’s crowds are angry. And they are getting angrier. For his part, the billionaire reality TV host is not doing anything to calm them down. Instead he offers comments like, “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” Or, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you. Knock the crap out of him, would you? I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.”
With the Trump campaign already providing memories of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention (when the issue was war and peace) listen to the case Rubio’s already staked out against the Republican front-runner: “Donald Trump on a regular basis incites his crowd. He tells them oh, beat the guy up and I’ll pay your legal fees. You have a guy who sucker punches a man at one of his events, is arrested, and upon release says the next time we’re going to kill him. No condemnation. You have his campaign manager is accused here in Florida of assaulting a female reporter. Again, no condemnation or sense of responsibility. Last night he repeats this ridiculous story about an American general that dipped bullets in pig’s blood and shot a bunch of prisoners who were Muslim. Again, it’s like — goes off people’s backs because it’s just, we’ve become out to this outrage. There are people out there that are unbalanced. There are people out there that listen to this stuff and we don’t know how they’re going to react. And he keeps putting this stuff out there. We’re going to have an ugly scene here; we already have seen these ugly scenes.”
Rubio then explains how he feels a Trump presidency could spell the end of our Republic – yes the end of our very Republic: “How have we reached the point in this country where our political discourse looks like the comments section of a blog where people can just say whatever they want about anyone without any rules of civility, no norms that govern how we interact with one another. If we’ve reached the point where we can’t debate the proper tax rate or health care policy, our differences on foreign policy, what the government’s role should be in education, without resorting to “you’re a bad person”, “you’re an evil person”, you know, “I can say or do anything I want because I’m angry”, we’re going to our lose our republic. And we’re most certainly going to lose our ability to solve problems.”
And here is THE hint Rubio offers about the fall. I think it’s a LOUD hint: “It’s getting harder every day (to support Trump). It really is. Because while I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, I do not, I want her to be defeated, I think we’re having a battle to define conservatism in the Republican Party. I do not want the Republican Party or the conservative movement to be defined by what I’m seeing out of Donald Trump’s campaign. I know people are angry. I know people are frustrated. But leadership is not about making people even angrier and even more frustrated and asking them to give you power so you can go after another group that you want to blame for people’s anger and frustration. Real leadership is recognizing people are angry, recognizing people are frustrated, and then showing them a way forward that gives them hope and a belief that we can make things better. That’s real leadership.”
When Trump secures the nomination, we may see Rubio decide to skip the GOP convention in Cleveland. If that happens, it means he is putting a team together to somehow, someway, become a credible option to Trump and Hillary Clinton come November.
Ballot access will be tricky. But as we all know in politics, if there’s a will, there will be a way.