The Blog

A Wise Latino Man: Marco Rubio as the Anti-Sotomayor

5:25 PM, Jul 14, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

On the surface, Marco Rubio's campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist for the Florida GOP 2010 Senate nomination looks increasingly quixotic. Crist recently posted a $4.3 million fundraising haul in the second quarter--more than ten times as much money as Rubio took in during the same period.On the surface, Marco Rubio's campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist for the Florida GOP 2010 Senate nomination looks increasingly quixotic. Crist recently posted a $4.3 million fundraising haul in the second quarter--more than ten times as much money as Rubio took in during the same period. It seems that Crist's campaign has been flooded with contributions from the estimable old white-haired-dude caucus, to borrow a phrase from Paris Hilton. Meanwhile Rubio's supporters try compensate for their lack of money with their abundance of enthusiasm by doing things like jumping out of airplanes with Rubio bumper stickers plastered to their bodies. But, as Patrick Ruffini argues, you'd be wrong to get the impression that Rubio is simply tilting at windmills:

ask presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney how far early, high dollar bundler support got them. Or Virginia Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe on how much a 10-to-1 cash advantage is worth. Underfunded candidates like Rubio don't need more money now. The need an argument. A bulletproof argument from a plausible candidate is worth tens of millions of dollars in any primary, overwhelming a financial advantage of any magnitude.

An argument Rubio's got. He has a record as an ideas-driven conservative reformer and promotes an authentic alternative agenda to what the Democrats in Washington are selling. Crist doesn't. He has taken his cues from the Democratic party on a range of issues, from the stimulus and cap and trade to immigration and abortion.

With the nomination hearings of Supreme Court appointee Sonia Sotomayor this week, Rubio is looking to draw a sharp contrast between his vision of the role of the judiciary and that of Crist's. Racial diversity has been one of Crist's primary concerns when making judicial appointments. As the Palm Beach Post recently reported, Crist "spurned a state commission's six nominees for the appellate post in December, saying the roster lacked diversity and asking the commission to reconsider three black judges." On July 2, the state's high court ruled that Crist's move was unconstitutional.

Crist drew fire from the right last March after he nominated Judge James Perry to the state supreme court instead of a conservative. The Florida branch of Planned Parenthood hailed Crist's appointment as "Great news!" "We have a very diverse state and I think it's important that our court understands all the perspectives that make Florida a beautiful place to live," Crist told the AP in March after appointing Perry, an African-American.

"I think [Crist] has permanently swung the court in Florida to an activist majority for years to come," Rubio told THE WEEKLY STANDARD during a telephone interview. Rubio rejects the view that "each judge [is] a representative of their sex or their race or their class," and he says he's concerned that Republicans will cave to liberal Hispanic organizations that suggest that opposition to Sotomayor is based on bigotry."I don't want to see this important moment to have a high-minded, philosophical discussion about the role of the judiciary to pass us by simply because of the historic nature of her nomination," Rubio says. "The true measure of progress for the nation when it comes to issues surrounding race and ethnicity is the freedom of people of conscience to disagree with one another based on sound philosophical or political reasons without fear of being branded as racists."

Asked if Republicans will pay a political price with Hispanics for opposing Sotomayor, Rubio says, "I think Hispanic voters are Americans and want what's best for America. I don't think Republicans will hurt themselves, if it's a philosophical opposition." Rubio asks: "Do we want judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts, who likened the judge's role to that of an umpire who dispassionately and objectively applies the law, or do we want judges like Sotomayor who reject the notion that objectivity is even possible and believe it's appropriate for judges to decide cases based on their personal experiences and prejudices?"

Despite his pointed criticism, Rubio says he will wait until the hearings finish to decide whether or not he would support Sotomayor. In Florida, voters won't render a verdict on Rubio v. Crist for 13 more months, which is good news for the underdog Rubio. That means he has plenty of time for the state's Republicans to get to know him. Although Crist still swamps Rubio in every poll by more than 20 points, a recent Mason-Dixon poll showed that the race was tied among voters who recognized both candidates.