We Won’t Have Marco Rubio To Kick Around Anymore

Marco Rubio is ruling out a return to politics, at least for now.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio told reporters that he’s done with electoral politics for now:

WASHINGTON — He was once described, for better or worse, as the Republican Barack Obama — a fresh-faced first-term senator who just might walk away with his party’s presidential nomination. Instead, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida returned to his day job on Thursday.

Two days after a disappointing second-place finish in his home state prompted him to bow out of the presidential race, Mr. Rubio was back at the Capitol, falling once more into the routine of roll call votes and conference lunches.

He questioned State Department officials about arms-control issues during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. He voted for a resolution holding the website BackPage.com in contempt for being complicit in sex trafficking. He attended a weekly Republican luncheon. And now that his run for president is over, he made it clear that he had no interest in several rumored backup plans.

“I’m not going to be vice president,” he said. “I’m not interested in being governor of Florida. I’m going to finish up my term in the Senate over the next 10 months. We’re going to work really hard here, and we have some things we want to achieve, and then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

It had been several weeks since Mr. Rubio had been spotted in the halls of Congress. In early February, he and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, then a rival for the nomination, flew in to vote for a bill imposing strict sanctions intended to derail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. It passed, 96 to 0.

Mr. Rubio is the third Republican senator to return to the Capitol after bowing out of the race, joining Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Mr. Graham garnered a few headlines of his own on Thursday with the revelation that he will attend a fund-raiser next week for Mr. Cruz. Just two months ago, Mr. Graham said that choosing between Mr. Cruz and his rival Donald J. Trump was like a choice between being shot or poisoned.

While lacking some of the dramatic finality of Richard Nixon’s press conference after losing the 1962 California Governor’s race to Pat Brown just two years after losing the 1960 Presidential election, it also isn’t entirely surprising. When he entered the Presidential race last year, Rubio had made clear that he would not be simultaneously running for re-election to the Senate even though Florida election law would have allowed him to do so. This has created a race for an open Senate seat in one of the most high-profile states in the nation that is sure to draw much media attention as the year goes on, but it also meant that the race for the White House, either as President or Vice-Presidential running mate, was the only means by which Rubio would be staying in politics for the foreseeable future. With his Presidential campaign over and Rubio himself ruling out the idea of being anyone’s running mate, his options for 2016 are effectively closed.

As for the Florida Governor’s race in 2018, that is an option that has really been nothing more than the subject of speculation by political analysts in recent week, especially as it became apparent that Rubio was not going to win the Florida primary. Indeed, many reports had those close to Rubio, as well as others, suggesting that Rubio should drop out before the primary so as to maintain his political credibility inside the Sunshine State for such a run. For whatever reason, though, Rubio was obviously not interested in that idea. Now, with his having been positively trounced in the GOP Primary on Tuesday, the prospect of his running statewide again in two years is pretty much out the window. The same would seem to be true about challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson when his term next comes up in 2018. The statewide trouncing among Republicans that Rubio received this week would seem to preclude any real possibility that he’d be able to build an effective campaign for either seat in time to mount a successful 2018 campaign.

Of course, just like Nixon’s “final” press conference after losing that Governor’s race in 1962 was far from his final foray into politics, it’s entirely possible that this is far from the end of Marco Rubio in American politics. He’s only 44 years old, younger than Nixon was in 1962, and for all the faults of what was, in the end, a poorly focused campaign that seemed to lack a clear plan for victory, still possesses the many positive attributes that made him an attractive candidate in the first place. Assuming he decides he wants to return to politics in the future, it seems that there would be several paths open to him. If the GOP does indeed suffer the fate that many believe it will in November, especially with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, then he could be among those who attempt to restore the party heading into 2020 and beyond as a candidate for President once again, or he could end up back in Florida politics at some point and use that as a springboard for a return to national politics. For the time being, though, he’ll likely end up taking a position at some top law firm in Florida and perhaps showing up as a commentator on news shows. Don’t be surprised if we see Marco Rubio again, though. After all, it was just 18 months after seemingly retiring from the public eye that Nixon was already working on his comeback.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Mr. Rubio was back at the Capitol, falling once more into the routine of roll call votes and conference lunches.

    and a two week recess starting tomorrow.

    Can’t say I’ll miss the little dweeb, but I thank him for the open seat. I suspect you’re right, he’s a bad penny, he’ll turn up again.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    We’re going to work really hard here, and we have some things we want to achieve

    WTF? The most worthless Congress in history? Work hard? Starting when?

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Cue the tiniest violin EVAH.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Marco: “I’m going to finish up my term in the Senate over the next 10 months. We’re going to work really hard here, and we have some things we want to achieve, and then I’ll be a private citizen in January.”

    Didn’t he and his colleagues “achieve” enough? Two government shutdowns, repeated votes (about 70) to repeal or defund ACA, obstruction of as many of Obama’s proposed court appointments as possible, ending with the current refusal to conduct hearings on the current nominee to the Supreme Court. And there’s so much more.

    Maybe it’s really simple: Rubio showed himself to be the quintessential lightweight, there just wasn’t any there there. Also, in this time of bitter, angry resentful white Republican voters, his light and sunny approach just wasn’t going to cut it.

  5. Slugger says:

    We should not either kick nor mourn Mr. Rubio’s fate. I am pretty sure that he’ll do better than most jobless people his age. I do think that we should be worried about what the two party system has produced. It looks like the voters will confront a even less appealing slate than the usual hold-your-nose-when-you-vote. The partisan divisions are not in the interests of the USA. We need to get beyond them. How can we bring about the waning of the parties? We have followed the slogans, the empty-headed emotional appeals, and the false flag of the latest scandal long enough.

  6. James Pearce says:

    Rubio’s big mistake may have been modeling his career too much on Obama. The inexperienced, ethnic Senator trying to go straight to the top and all that. (Rubiogration?)

    His biggest mistake, though, may have been running as a Republican in 2016. Donald Trump proves that Republican voters are in the market for dumb and radical. Rubio only fulfills the first part.

    Buckle up, liberals. This (Rubio’s exit from politics) is not a good development in our political conversation.

  7. MBunge says:

    Nixon was a political animal and a spectacularly talented but massively flawed human being.

    Rubio is…what? A youthful mug and a Latino surname?


  8. JohnMcC says:

    If his future in elected office depends on the Republican party having a healthy future — he should probably seek his fortune in the private sector. At least the wingnut welfare system will be there for him.

  9. Gustopher says:

    Does he qualify for unemployment insurance when his term is up? If he’s been paying into it, he should absolutely apply for it when he’s eligible. It’s not a government handout, he earned it and he deserves it.

    Changing careers in your 40s is difficult — you are competing for entry level positions against younger applicants who might “look the part” more. Age discrimination is real, and it can be brutal.

    I hope Rubio lands on his feet.

  10. stonetools says:

    A cushy spin around the wingnut welfare circuit, some time as a lobbyist, and he will be tanned, rest & ready for the Florida governor’s race in 2018. If Florida’s rubes could elect a fraud like Skeletor twice, they should have no trouble falling for a younger and more telegenic fraud.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce: If Rubio’s game was to emulate Obama he maybe should have considered that Obama is way smarter than he is. And judging by Obama’s first presidential campaign, way, way better at putting together a campaign. Resumes are one thing, and Obama’s had Harvard Law Magna cum Laude on it. But there are also issues of intelligence, aptitude, and personality to be considered.

  12. Andre Kenji says:

    Marco Rubio did not want to emulate Barack Obama. What happened is that both of them were inexperienced, telegenic and young, just that. Rubio like Obama is not a White Anglo, but that´s where the similarities end.

    Rubio´s main problem is that he had to pander to White base of the Republican Party. And he could not do that and emulate Obama on the same time. If Rubio were a Democrat his life would be much easier.

  13. mike shupp says:

    I can foresee a long and fruitful career for ex-Senator Rubio in the post-2015 Republcan Party,

    Think Harold Stassen.

  14. de stijl says:

    Pure speculation here:

    1. That Rubio has acknowledged to himself and then to his family and staff that he is ill-suited to be a high-ranking and high-visibility public servant. Sometimes, what you *want* to be in life does not mesh with what your personality and psychological true self *needs* to be in life. Perhaps he discovered that being a US Senator does not suit him.

    The evidence is that he is obviously uncomfortable often when in full political mode: the R response to the SOTU water bottle lunge, the rote / uninspiring stump speeches, that odd week-long foray into super-obvious stand-up when he was riffing on Trump’s hand size and skin tone and hair-cut, the over-use of memorized talking points / zingers during debates. All of this ignores the fact that he was a relatively reach-across-the-aisle R, colleagues-thought-him-a-centrist during his tenure as a FL state representative and his state record bears that out even if his national record looks like boiler-plate R hard-nosed tuff-guy except for his later repudiated lean-in on comprehensive immigration reform as a US Senator. He may just not be comfortable playing the role that the current-day Republican party needs from a guy like him.

    2. That there is another shoe to drop in one or more of the various investigations.

    3. That he needs a break and a breather and in a few years he’ll come back tanned, rested, and ready.

    It’s a guess really, but I lean towards #1 at 75%, #2 at 24%, and #3 at 1%. IMO, he’s basically done on the national stage. It either didn’t suit him or there’s actual prison-or-disgrace fire where smoke has been sighted. Even if he’s entirely innocent on point #2, IMO there is no comeback unless the Rs decide they want to be a true centrist party in the next few years which ain’t gonna happen. Good-bye lil’ Marco.

  15. Pete S says:

    He will go the Palin/Huckabee route, make some money at Fox News and pretend to be considering a future run just to appear relevant. He is smart enough to see how actually running again worked for Huckabee so I assume he will avoid that.

    After all he is not retiring from politics, the voters decided for him.

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    I doubt that he´ll go the Palin/Huckabee route. He never felt really comfortable pandering to the Right Wing Base of the Republican Party. The problem if you are a non-Anglo or non-White in the Republican Party is that you have to go to fully ideological lines to be fully accepted by your party. Tim Scott and Nikki Halley are going to be called RINO in some years, you may bet.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Andre Kenji: You may be right. The one big, good thing he tried to do, immigration reform, got thrown in his face by his own party. He might even reemerge as a Democrat.

    It also occurs to me that as we normalize relations with Cuba, A fluently bi-lingual and well connected young Miami lawyer will have a lot of opportunity opening up.

  18. wr says:

    Shorter Rubio: I want to devote my life to public service, but only if I get the most powerful position in the world and I don’t actually have to work very hard to get it.

  19. Andre Kenji says:

    @gVOR08: Even Antony Weiner got a job in the private sector. And it wasn´t in the porn industry.

  20. Andre Kenji says:

    @gVOR08: Even Antony Weiner got a job in the private sector. And it wasn´t in the porn industry.

  21. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    I don’t know if it was intentional but I really liked:

    I’m going to finish up my term in the Senate over the next 10 months. We’re going to work really hard here, and we have some things we want to achieve, and then I’ll be a private citizen in January.

    combined with the subtitle:

    Marco Rubio is ruling out a return to politics, at least for now.

    Seems to be in line with everything we learned in the last few weeks 😀

  22. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    there is no comeback unless the Rs decide they want to be a true centrist party in the next few years which ain’t gonna happen.

    Considering that Rubio has a very conservative voting record (according to DW-NOMINATE he’d have been the most conservative nominee since Goldwater), I’m not sure why a “true centrist” party would want him. Rubio is what passes for centrist in today’s punditry, where the main criteria for inclusion seems to be “not frothing at the mouth every minute.”

  23. Paul Hooson says:

    I’m not sure how he even got elected senator, but this youngster only proved himself to be greatly underqualified during his failed presidential run. Maybe the Republican Party had higher hopes than he had skills, looking for a high profile Hispanic to use as a poster boy, even if he had very limited ability.

  24. Kylopod says:

    @Paul Hooson: One thing I have noticed over the past eight years is that the GOP seems to be in a constant search for a “Republican Obama.” Usually this ends up meaning little more than a young, fresh-faced, telegenic minority or woman who happens to be Republican. Most of these attempts have not ended well. It started, maybe, with John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin, and went from there to the election of Michael Steele as RNC chair, the choice of Bobby Jindal to deliver the first SOTU response, and of course the rise of Marco Rubio.

    I think of all these episodes as reflecting the GOP’s fundamental misunderstanding of what the Obama phenomenon was about. The characterization of Obama as an “empty suit” never was a fair charge, but it solidified into conventional wisdom almost as soon as he appeared on the national stage, and after he astonished many of the pundits by actually defeating the Clintons and eventually being elected president, the lesson many Republicans drew was not that Obama might have had more substance than they first assumed, but that his rise was purely superficial, due to a mixture of charm, good looks, and belonging to a demographic that had never reached the White House before.

    Once you realize this, it becomes clear how profoundly cynical the elevation of figures like Palin, Steele, Rubio, etc. was; the Republicans who backed them didn’t do it out of appreciation for Obama’s talents or any of those people’s talents but out of a belief that talent wasn’t even necessary, since if an “empty suit” like Barack could reach these heights, surely it must be a cinch to produce a Republican version.

    And one thing I find fascinating is that it never seems to occur to anyone that Obama might be an exception to the rule. Throughout this cycle if you told someone “Well, Rubio is merely a first-term Senator,” you were likely to get the retort, “Didn’t stop the current occupant.” The fact remains that young, first-term Senators probably do not, in general, have the skills needed to handle the rough-and-tumble of a national campaign. The fact that Obama had those skills (and even then, just barely defeated his rival in the primaries) doesn’t prove that it’s a common occurrence.

    Until Republicans stop trivializing Obama’s rise to the presidency–let alone what he’s accomplished while occupying that office–they’re going to continue getting themselves in trouble by pushing members of their own team who embody qualities that are but a pallid caricature of the man they supposedly hate.