After spending months vowing to retire from politics, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has announced that he will seek re-election. The move follows persistent efforts from GOP leaders to convince Rubio to run again, in order to help maintain the Republican-majority in the Senate.
Rubio had announced that he was leaving politics after being toppled in the Republican presidential primary by business mogul Donald Trump. Following a humiliating defeat in his home state of Florida, the senator insisted that he would finish his term and then become a private citizen.
On June 22, Rubio reversed his retirement plans, entering a senatorial race where he is projected to be the front-runner. After seeking executive power, the senator asserts that he is running again to help check that power.
“No matter who’s elected president, there’s reason to worry,” Rubio told the Miami Herald. “If it’s Hillary Clinton, you know we’re going to have four more years of the same failed economic policies, four more years of the same failed foreign policy.”
Having engaged in a bitter primary battle with Trump, Rubio added, “The prospect of a Trump presidency is also worrisome to me in many ways. It’s no secret that I have significant disagreements with Donald.”
Rubio’s reversal is partially surprising because of his much-publicized disdain for working in Congress. The senator stressed that he would be committed to the job despite his reservations.
“I can tell you that I’m fully committed to coming back and making my mark in the Senate, working hard,” Rubio said. “And, look, there’s no secret of the fact that I’ve been frustrated with the way things work, but I am fully committed to coming back here and doing the best I can within the Senate as it is, not as I wish it were.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had waged a concerted effort over the past three weeks to convince Rubio to seek re-election.
“This is all a giant McConnell plot,” a GOP-insider told the National Review. “And they pulled it off. It’s impressive. They cleared the field.”
While several GOP contenders for Rubio’s Senate seat have cleared out to make way for his re-election, he will still face competition from real estate developer Carlos Beruff and defense contractor Todd Wilcox.
Rubio will also have to defeat either Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy or Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida. GOP leaders feared that without Rubio in the race, either Murphy or Grayson could capture the seat and help topple the Republican majority in the chamber.
Rep. Murphy blasted Rubio for his change of heart, deeming it cynical politics.
“Marco Rubio abandoned his constituents, and now he’s treating them like a consolation prize,” Murphy said, according to The Hill. "From missing the most votes of any Florida Senator in nearly 50 years, to seeking to ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest, to repeatedly voting against closing the terrorist gun loophole, Rubio is proving he is only out for himself."
A Quinnipiac poll released on June 22 found that Rubio would enter the race with a comfortable lead, ahead of Murphy by 7 percentage points and Grayson by 8 points.