Florida Rep. David Jolly is abandoning his attempt to claim the GOP nomination in the race for state’s open (for now) Senate seat. Adding another layer to an increasing amount of evidence that Marco Rubio is likely to change his mind and run for his own Senate seat.
Rubio initially said he would forego re-election, deciding to run for president instead. And while he entered the race as a promising candidate, his chances were doomed when he repeated the same line four times in a matter of 30 seconds in a debate just days before the New Hampshire Primary.
Even though he dropped out of the presidential race on March 15, he maintained he was not running for re-election. This opened the door to a number of candidates to jump into the race; the aforementioned David Jolly, who represents Florida’s 13th district, District 6 Rep. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, real estate developer and Chair of the Florida Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding Carlos Beruff, and several lower tier candidates.
So far, no candidate has really broken away from the pack of 11 GOP hopefuls.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of things, the party was able to successfully recruit District 18 Rep. Patrick Murphy, a 33 year-old rising star who is known as a prolific fundraiser.
Murphy is expected to cruise to his party’s nomination despite a spirited challenge by the Democratic Party’s version of Ted Cruz, and current District 9 Rep. Alan Grayson.
These developments left Democrats feeling very optimistic about their chances to flip the seat, moving them one step closer to taking back the Senate.
Democrats optimism, combined with the fear of a Trump induced wipe out for their party in down ballot races, led several Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to launch a full court press to convince Rubio to reconsider his decision.
And of course with Rubio being Rubio, he began to wavier, culminating with the June 12 shooting that killed 49 people at a Gay Nightclub in Orlando, FL.
The day after the shooting, Rubio told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “I haven’t even given it thought in that perspective, other than to say I’ve been deeply impacted by it and I think when it visits your home state, when it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause, to think a little bit about your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country,” while also adding “my family and I will be praying about all this. We’ll see what I need to do next with my life in regards to how I can best serve.”
Jolly said just a few short weeks ago he would drop out of the race should Rubio change his mind and decide to run. He obviously believes Rubio will in fact run, so he is instead seeking re-election in his newly drawn 13th District against former Gov. Charlie Crist; who Rubio defeated in the 2010 Senate primary back when Crist was a Republican.
Seeking re-election will not be an easy feat for Rep. Jolly since his district was infused with more Democratic voters after a court ordered redrawing of Florida’s congressional districts.
Rubio says he is still resisting a run due to his longtime friend, Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera’s presence in the race. Cantera has said he too would step aside if Rubio decided to run again.
Seems to me like the writing is on the wall. Frankly, I saw this coming long before the Orlando shooting happened. Rubio has his sights set on another presidential run in 2020. Leaving public life for four years would make him an afterthought to many voters.
There were rumors he would run for governor in 2018, but a bid for the Governor’s Mansion is highly unlikely. It doesn’t make any sense for him to it. The 2020 campaign will basically start in early 2019. That means if Rubio ran for governor, and won, he would have to turn around and start campaigning full time for president just one-year after taking office.
Getting re-elected to the Senate, grinning and bearing it for another two years, is his only real option.
Rubio jumping back in the race would certainly complicate the Democrat’s efforts to pick up the seat, but it would not make it impossible. Not by a long shot. A June 7 PPP Poll showed Rubio’s approval rating sitting at 32% with Florida voters. 54% disapprove of the job he has done as their Senator.
Among Republicans, his approval rating is only 51%, with 37% disapproval. Only a quarter of Independents approve of the job he is doing, with 54% voicing disapproval.
Making matters worse, PPP also polled a hypothetical match-up between Rubio and likely Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy, and it showed Rubio trailing by one-point, 44% to 43%, even though only 38% of respondents recognized Murphy’s name.
The poll showed Rubio trailing Murphy by 22 points (57% to 35%) among voters who are familiar with both candidates.
Democrats will also be quick to point out Rubio’s past statements saying he is not a big fan of the Senate and that he missed a lot of votes while he was running for president.
“I don’t know that ‘hate’ is the right word,” Rubio said last October when asked if he enjoyed the Senate. “I’m frustrated.” He then added, “That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection.”
Despite all of that, Rubio would be a slight favorite to win re-election due mostly to the fact he is the incumbent Senator. But if Murphy is able to successfully paint him as a guy who suffered a humiliating defeat in his home state during the presidential primary, who only wants to return to the Senate because he has to in order to run for president again in four years, not because he loves doing the work for the people of his state, while simultaneously tying him to Donald Trump, the seat could change hands regardless.
It’ll be tough, but Patrick Murphy is a good campaigner who defeated incumbent Rep. Alan West back in 2012. He has been down this road before. And defeating Rubio not only keeps him out of the Senate, it likely kills any chances he would have of being a serious candidate for president in 2020.
Rubio has one week from today, July 24, to file for the August 30 primary. He said he is going to discuss everything with his family and advisers over the weekend.