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How Marco Rubio went from rival to one of Donald Trump's VP runners-up

How Marco Rubio went from rival to one of Donald Trump's VP runners-up
How Marco Rubio went from rival to one of Donald Trump's VP runners-up


When Marco Rubio flew with President Donald Trump on Air Force One in 2017, the Republican senator from Florida cracked a joke about Trump's strong handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron. Rubio knew his hands weren't small, Trump joked.

Trump was referring to Rubio's clumsy attack on him, an implicit reference to the male anatomy during the 2016 primary, when the two were bitter rivals, charting different paths for the GOP. The in-flight conversation, narrated by the representative at the time. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), was an early indicator of a thaw in a once-frigid dynamic between Rubio and the man he had called a crook. Rubio is now a finalist to become Trump's running mate, the culmination of a years-long shift that has impressed the former president's allies and surprised and disappointed some of the senators' former associates.

He decided to get in the mud with Donald Trump in 2016, and it really backfired, Curbelo said in an interview. But since then, he's really figured out how to navigate the Trumpian waters of the new Republican Party.

In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has requested documents from at least eight potential vice presidential candidates, including Rubio. Trump said he would announce his choice at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, which begins July 15.

Rubio spoke only in general terms in a recent interview about the prospect of running alongside Trump, saying that anyone who is offered the opportunity to serve our country in such a position should not ignore it and should consider doing so if his life allows it. but I'm not going to comment because it's presumptuous.

Trump views Rubio as an effective messenger for his agenda that is good on television, according to two people familiar with the president's thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the process, with one noting that Trump had spoken favorably of a recent appearance by Rubio on Meet the Press. The former president also likes Rubio's foreign policy credentials, his allies said, and sees him as a potential key player on Western Hemisphere issues. Kellyanne Conway, Trump's 2016 campaign manager and a top White House aide, said the Cuban-American senator was among the potential vice presidential candidates who could help Trump make inroads with voters in color. Rubio is also popular among mainstream Republicans, which could expand Trump's reach and boost fundraising, the sources said.

A major complicating factor for Rubio is that he and Trump are both Florida residents. Under the 12th Amendment, a Florida voter cannot vote for the ticket if Trump and his running mate are both Florida residents. At a private fundraiser last month at Mar-a-Lago, Trump alluded to that challenge.

Every time they say, is it taken into consideration? I said absolutely, although we have a little problem in Florida, Trump said, also nodding to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Florida), another Floridian under consideration. They want to give you a small penalty: they want to take away all your delegates. Other than that, there are no problems.

Unlike some of the other finalists, Rubio refrained from going to the New York courthouse with Trump during his secret trial and did not aggressively hit the fundraising circuit for him. He found other ways to show his support, including in a Newsweek opinion piece describing the upcoming election as America's last chance.

Voting for anyone other than Trump is literally a vote to normalize the militarization of government against political opponents and criminalize the traditional American way of life, Rubio wrote, echoing the former president.

Rubio also spoke at a Trump birthday event Friday in West Palm Beach, hosted by Club 47 USA, a Trump fan club.

After saying Trump had spent his entire career sticking to the little guy, Rubio told the audience at the Palm Beach County Convention Center: “He's not doing it for himself, he doesn't need this.” He's running for president, he's putting up with all this because he's doing it for us. He does it for America, the country he loves.

This mutual support, which has lasted for years according to interviews with associates of both men, stands in stark contrast to the Republican presidential primary eight years ago, when Trump disparagingly nicknamed Rubio Little Marco before firing him. gap in Florida and force him out of the competition. Some former Rubio associates have expressed surprise at some of his recent votes and statements.

Before his run for the White House in 2016, Rubio took an optimistic view of America, often recounting his own experience as the son of Cuban immigrants as living proof of the American dream. Less than three years after being elected to the Senate at age 39 during the Tea Party wave of 2010, Rubio graced the cover of Time magazine, with the title “The Republican Savior.” In 2015, he launched a presidential campaign on the promise of generational change and a new American century.

For much of the 2016 campaign, Rubio largely avoided talking about Trump. As the race narrowed and Trump solidified his position as the leading candidate, Rubio suddenly launched into the kind of insults and personal attacks that Trump had used effectively. Trump was a crook, to hear Rubio tell it, someone who was dangerous and would break the GOP. In turn, Trump said Rubio was a disaster for Florida and suggested he couldn't be elected dog catcher.

At one point, Rubio made fun of the size of Trump's hands and alluded to another part of his anatomy: You know what they say about men with small hands? You can't trust them.

Trump later responded: He was referring to my hands if they're small, something else must be small. I guarantee there is no problem.

The attacks backfired and Rubio quickly withdrew from the race. Just before he left, Rubio said it was getting harder every day to support Trump. In his concession speech, Rubio called for a new political establishment and acknowledged that his ambitious speech was no match for the anger and grievance-fueled Trump campaign.

People are angry. They are frustrated. They're left behind by this economy, and then they're told, 'Look, if you're against illegal immigration, that makes you a bigot,'” Rubio said in that speech. From a political point of view, the easiest thing to do in this campaign is to lean into all of these anxieties that I just talked about, to make people even angrier, more frustrated. But I chose another route.

A former Rubio fundraiser described the speech in Florida as a fundamental shift from Marco Rubio, a sign that he would move in a more populist direction over the next eight years.

In May, Rubio stood with Trump.

Trump didn't create 2016, 2016 created Trump, Rubio told the Washington Post in a recent interview. The country was ready to welcome someone who was willing to challenge the orthodoxy of economics, in terms of foreign policy, in a way that was necessary and which, I think, is even more so today. today.

During Trump's presidency, Rubio worked closely with the administration on Latin America policy, drawing comparisons to a virtual secretary of state for the region. The Trump administration sought his advice on hiring, and he helped shape its policies toward Cuba and Venezuela. Rubio also worked with Ivanka Trump on a paid family leave initiative and sought to expand the child tax credit as part of the GOP's 2017 tax law. That legislation increased the child tax credit, although Trump rebuffed Rubio's attempts to do so more significantly in exchange for a smaller corporate tax cut than Republicans passed.

It's important to keep in mind that politics is, ultimately, politics, said Jason Miller, Trump's campaign adviser, who addressed now-Vice President Harris' attacks on the president Biden on school busing during the Democratic primary. By comparison, President Trump and all of his potential vice presidential picks will be much more likable.

Even though Rubio has largely aligned himself with Trump on policy and recently echoed his refusal to commit to accepting the results of the November election, some differences raise questions about what their dynamic would be as partners or in a new administration.

Rubio, a more traditional foreign policy hawk, broke with the Trump administration over sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. He also broke with Trump over his emergency declaration to build a border wall. And the senator voted to certify the 2020 election results.

But Rubio recently voted against a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included billions of dollars in weapons and support for key U.S. allies Ukraine and Israel, a move that surprised some of his Republican colleagues and former associates. Rubio, who in 2013 championed a comprehensive immigration overhaul with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants before disavowing that effort after its collapse, cited federal inaction at the border as a reason and, in a speech , called the package legislative blackmail.

When asked how his views on foreign policy differ from those of Trump, Rubio responded: “I don't have a line-by-line for you on that, but I can tell you that generally , I think we have entered an era where we need to be much more pragmatic in our foreign policy. Our politics and national interests must be at the heart of every decision we make.

He added: Things [Trump] We're talking about maybe they're expressed in a way that's unorthodox politically, they're not orthodox in terms of public policy.

Trump has been quick to forgive when there is political advantage. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) became a staunch ally after Trump gave out his cell phone number in 2015. More recently, he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) butted heads fist during a Republican Senate meeting in Washington. (McConnell and Trump had not spoken in years after the senator called the former president practically and morally responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.)

I don't think the evolution, if you will, of Little Marco to one of the leading vice presidential contenders is unusual for Donald Trump, said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). It's like being on a football field for, you know, 60 minutes in the trenches, pushing and running and knocking down and kicking and clawing for victory and then praying in the middle of the field after the game.

Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.




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