Some got behind Florida's rising star earlier than others.
8:58 AM, Nov 9, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Mark Levin has posted some criticism of my Marco Rubio piece on his Facebook page. The story was a rather straightforward look at the Rubio campaign – from the inside. To the extent that his post is about anything at all, it seems to be a complaint that the piece fails to mention Levin’s endorsement of Rubio. It's hard to understand why – in the face of a trillion dollar deficit, growing national security threats and a president who seems ill-equipped to deal with either – Levin is focused on something so petty. But his distortions require a response.
Levin writes: “First, when did the Weekly Standard endorse Rubio? Second, the first nationally syndicated talk show to endorse Rubio was ... mine.”
Second, THE WEEKLY STANDARD doesn’t endorse candidates. The magazine has never done so in its fifteen-year history.
But TWS has covered Rubio – quite a bit.
Rubio formally announced his candidacy on May 5, 2009. Three days later, on May 8, TWS reporter John McCormack wrote an article about the race that pointed out many reasons why conservatives ought to prefer Rubio to Crist. McCormack wrote that Rubio is "a dynamic speaker with an appealing biography and a deeply held conservative philosophy.” He noted that students who attended a Rubio event were “wowed” by his speech, with one saying: “I think we just saw the future president of the United States.” McCormack quoted a former editorial board member of the Miami Herald, saying Rubio is a “rising star” and “very impressive.”
On May 12, 2009, Charlie Crist announced his candidacy. Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” that evening, TWS editor Bill Kristol said: “I think given that the mood in 2010 will be pretty antiestablishment, anti-Washington, I think some of these challengers have a pretty good shot. I think Rubio has a really good shot against Crist. I would prefer him personally. I think he could win a general election.”
On July 14, 2009, McCormack wrote about Rubio again, immediately after a poor Rubio fundraising report led many observers to conclude that his Senate campaign was doomed. McCormack, who interviewed Rubio for the piece, wrote that while “on the surface” the campaign looks “increasingly quixotic” it “would be wrong to get the impression that Rubio is simply tilting at windmills.” He added that Rubio “has a record as an idea-driven conservative reformer and promotes an authentic alternative agenda to what the Democrats in Washington are selling. Crist doesn’t.”
On August 21, 2009, McCormack wrote on Rubio again, under the headline “Rubio Can Win.”
On November 20, 2009, also on “Special Report,” we were asked to cite the most interesting race of the 2010 election cycle.
The race I chose was the Rubio/Crist primary. “I think the most interesting race probably of the entire cycle is going to be Charlie Crist versus Marco Rubio in Florida. Rubio is a young, fresh-faced conservative. I had somebody who is not prone to hysteria or enthusiasm at political events go and watch him speak and come back and say: ‘This is the Republican Barack Obama.’”
Bret Baier interjected: “The latest poll at Real Clear Politics has Crist up by 13, roughly, but obviously Rubio has made a charge as of late.”
I responded: “That gap is really narrowing. I would be actually at this point, despite the fact that Rubio is down, I would be shocked if he doesn’t win the primary in August.”
On Fox News Sunday, on February 21, 2010, I spoke positively about the number of people who consider themselves conservatives first and are not self-identified Republicans. On the same show, Bill Kristol said: “I’ve been involved, I think, in Republican politics one way or the other for 30 years. The tea parties are the best thing that has happened to the Republican Party in recent times.” He went on to mock a sitting US Senator who “fretted” that Marco Rubio was challenging Charlie Crist. Said Kristol: “Crist is unpopular. Rubio’s going to win the primary. Rubio’s going to win the general election.”
And on it goes. Search for Rubio on THE WEEKLY STANDARD website and you’ll turn up dozens of additional articles. The same is true for TWS journalists who appear on Fox.
All of this complicates Levin’s narrative. He wants his listeners to believe that THE WEEKLY STANDARD is part of the Republican “establishment” and that only he has the courage to stand up to it. He simply ignores evidence that undercuts his thesis and makes up evidence to support it.
So Levin writes: “How you can now support Rubio on philosophical grounds yet argue aggressively for Mike Castle - who'd counter virtually everything Rubio stands for - is the kind of mush we get from Hayes and others.”
I’m not sure I’d criticize others for “mush” if my sentences read like that. In any case, his claim is false. I never once “argued aggressively” for Mike Castle.
So when did Levin endorse Rubio? October of 2009. Here is what he said in a broadcast just before Election Day. “Back in October of last year, when I endorsed Marco Rubio, I was the first. I don’t remember all the groundswell of these pundits. He’s popular now, he’s fought his way through, he’s proven himself now all of a sudden…hey that Marco Rubio’s great!”
In many hours of discussions with Rubio over the past five weeks, we spent a lot of time talking about how and why he won this election. Not surprisingly, he was humble about his own contributions and eager to share credit with others. I reported some of the folks he mentioned in my article: Rubio talked at some length about Jim DeMint and praised a cover story in National Review from August 2009. He talked about the “three-percenters” – the supporters who had been there with him from the very beginning. And he mentioned Mike Huckabee.
Rubio also mentioned others whom I did not include in my original story – for reasons of space. He noted: “Jeff Miller endorsing us in Florida was a big deal.” He mentioned Jeb Bush Jr and George P. Bush. He spoke of “the Freedom Works guys and Dick Armey.” Rubio noted the early support of several Florida lawmakers, too. Rubio also spoke of the important contributions of Erick Erickson and RedState. “RedState. I mean Erick Erickson – they were on board early. I neglected to mention that. When the NRSC made the decision to go against me, Erick Erickson unleashed the hounds. They created that whole ‘not one red cent’ effort. And it really kind of became a rallying cry nationally.’” In particular, I regret leaving out Erickson because Rubio really singled him out for praise.
I do not, however, regret leaving Mark Levin out of the piece. I say that not because he routinely misrepresents my views, and those of other TWS contributors, or because I find it odd that he seems to believe it was his October 2009 endorsement that really made the difference for Marco Rubio.
My reason for leaving Levin out is much simpler: In our many hours of casual conversation and sit-down interviews, Marco Rubio never mentioned him.