When a French TV station set out to understand the American phenomenon known as the tea party, it sent a reporter to Florida, down a dusty country road, past a bug-swarmed pond, and into a Pasco County pasture filled with people waving American flags.
It was Oct. 30, three days before Election Day. The crowd had come to Hallelujah Acres Ranch to hear Republican Senate nominee Marco Rubio, frequently hailed -- and claimed -- as one of the tea party's biggest success stories.
But the typically unflappable candidate seemed uncomfortable with the French reporter's questions about his tea party ties, as he did when an admirer asked him to autograph a tea party banner.
If the tea party is expecting Rubio to plant its yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag in the hallowed Senate chamber, it's in for a letdown. This career politician who once carried the state party's American Express card defines himself first and foremost as a Republican.
Rubio's pollster, Whit Ayers, tactfully put it this way: ``I think he'll carry the banner for hopeful and optimistic conservatism and whoever wants to follow that banner is welcome to join.''
Rubio has already made it clear that he will not be a rogue senator. One day after the election, he declared his support for the GOP establishment when he said he looked forward to serving under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He didn't mention Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, viewed as the more ideologically pure conservative and alternative power center, who championed Rubio's campaign early on.
Two days later, McConnell tapped Rubio to deliver the weekly GOP address.
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