This newspaper has a long history of supporting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s electoral campaigns, going back to his days as a promising political newcomer from West Miami with a strong measure of personal magnetism and a crowd-pleasing message that served him well as he climbed the political ladder. When he ran an insurgent campaign for the Senate against a sitting Republican governor in 2010, we backed him because we believed, “He has the potential to be the kind of statesman Floridians can be proud to call a native son.”
On occasion, Sen. Rubio lived up to that early promise, never more so than during his freshman year in the U.S. Senate when he led an effort to forge a historic compromise on immigration. It ultimately failed, but the young senator displayed political courage and a willingness to defy his own party. This year, he again broke from the Republican majority by supporting President Obama’s request for $2 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika.
But in many other ways, Sen. Rubio has been a disappointment.
He has fought Obamacare at every step, even though it has brought immeasurable relief to millions who previously had no healthcare. He has joined the Senate majority in the scandalous move to block any consideration of the president’s nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy. He has unilaterally blocked other meritorious presidential nominations for purely political reasons, including confirmation of a judge he himself had once recommended.
Beyond the political differences, there are issues of sincerity and character for voters to consider. First, he reneged on his unequivocal pledge not to run for re-election for a position he once openly disdained — but only after he lost his bid for the Republican presidential nomination to his nemesis, Donald Trump. Then he endorsed Mr. Trump, whom he called a con man during the campaign. And still at this late date, he continues to stand by that endorsement, even as the Republican candidate stumbles from gaffe to insult to outrage.
Mr. Trump’s candidacy is a test of character, and Sen. Rubio is failing that test. How can voters believe he’s sincere when he says he does not share Mr. Trump’s awful views on Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, women, etc., yet — at the same time — stands by his endorsement of the New York billionaire? His act is unconvincing. It reeks of political convenience rather than political conviction.
And he has refused to issue a clear, unequivocal statement on whether he will finish out his term if he wins reelection. And though he used the June massacre at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, as his excuse for getting in the race, he has a disastrous record as far as LGBT issues are concerned, opposing marriage equality and adoption by gay parents, and voting against giving LGBT Americans workplace protections.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, the main challenger, is in many ways an untested figure. His claim to fame is that he knocked off firebrand conservative Allen West in a Treasure Coast district in 2012. As a relatively new Democrat in a Republican-controlled House, he has had little chance to show what he can do as a legislator.
Opponents claim Rep. Murphy padded his résumé, especially regarding his work on cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and his status as a CPA, but a thorough investigation by PolitiFact suggests the attacks are overkill. A more nuanced — and accurate — view is that he embellished his record but mostly did what he claimed.
What is clear, however, is that Rep. Murphy will fight for the right issues, as he stated in his debate with Sen. Rubio on Monday. He supports the diplomatic opening to Cuba, reasonable gun-control measures, the Affordable Care Act, measures to rein in climate change and Roe v. Wade — as well as comprehensive immigration reform and filling the Supreme Court vacancy.
For the U.S. Senate, the Miami Herald recommends PATRICK MURPHY.