Marco Rubio Goes Right on Social Issues

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: July 25, 2014 3:55 AM
Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio made his pitch to social conservatives this week as he tries to regain his position in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.

After Mitt Romney lost the presidential election in 2012, Rubio started at the top among possible Republican hopefuls for 2016. Rubio could be counted on to return Florida back to the Republican column, something that hasn’t happened in presidential elections since 2004. With the Hispanic population continuing to expand, Rubio could help cut into Democratic leads with that group. Despite the famous water-bottle incident, Rubio is usually a solid speaker, even an inspiring one at times.

But it all came crashing down for Rubio after his role in the “Gang of Eight” in pushing immigration reform. Republicans and conservatives across the country never forgave Rubio for his role in backing it, even as he would throw jabs at Barack Obama’s handling of immigration.

Rubio has talked various issues in recent months -- opposition to Obamacare, foreign policy, taxes, the economy -- as he’s tried to get conservatives back on board with a possible presidential bid. On Wednesday, Rubio spoke at Catholic University in Washington and he helped polish his appeal to social conservatives. Rubio spoke out against abortion and warned that religious Americans will face prejudice for opposing gay marriage.

It’s an interesting move for Rubio. He’s always been a social conservative but it never was front and center in his brief time on the national stage. Social conservatives have had mixed results in recent Republican presidential primaries with some doing surprisingly well -- Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum come to mind -- while others, like Rick Perry, crash. Iowa, not exactly Rubio country, has treated social conservatives well in Republican presidential caucuses.

Rubio should feel somewhat emboldened in recent days with his speech at Catholic University and his spat with Hillary Clinton. If Rubio’s role in immigration reform hurt him as a presidential candidate, it has done little harm to him in Florida. Polls show Florida Republicans continue to back Rubio with often more than 75 percent of them supporting him. Rubio also does well with independents in Florida, placing him in good shape if he does want another term in the Senate.

There’s also no harm done in trying to woo social conservatives if Rubio does make a presidential bid, especially as 2016 is shaking up as the most competitive Republican contest in decades. Outside of Ted Cruz, none of the leading candidates -- Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush -- are particularly associated with social conservatives. The likes of Santorum, Perry and Huckabee could make return appearances but they have baggage of their own.

If Rubio gets in, he needs to survive in Iowa and do well in South Carolina and Florida. Some conservatives will never trust him for his role in immigration reform but there are ways to appeal to Republican voters on other issues. That’s clearly on Rubio’s mind as he starts to turn his attention to social issues.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (4)

Just as good as you
3:47PM AUG 9TH 2014
Re: "Marco Rubio Goes Right on Social Issues"

Actually, he seems to have gone wrong on social issues. All while ignoring the 14th Amendment.
11:55AM JUL 25TH 2014
I don't know where you get your information that Rubio's immigration role "has done him little harm in Florida". I was one of the "grassroots" volunteers who worked hard to get him elected, now I would never vote for him again, and I don't know anyone who would. All the Republicans I know despise him. You do know that polls can be manipulated, don't you? If you have a poll showing him popular in FL, you must have taken it in Dade county only.
Floridians are done with Rubio!
just another bush clone
10:13AM JUL 25TH 2014
The Bushes always cover every base with more than one player. They invented Marco the politician just like the invented Carlos Lopez-Cantera in 2004 when Jeb Bush put him on the "dubya" re election campaign list of the ones we have got to have in the Florida House!

Just wait George Prescott Bush the first Bush blooded Hispanic will be moving into Texas "officialdumb" as the Land commissioner in charge of two things near and dear to the heart of daddy Jeb. He will be in charge of Texas state lands oil leases and the Texas Education Budget all under one roof. Happy days are here again. No wonder Gulen has so many muslin charter schools in Texas and Florida and lives in the mountains of PA.
8:04AM JUL 25TH 2014
Hard to believe Rubio can change his spots so easily with different visits to different states. The people in Florida already realize he's not the most truthful in regards to his political standings on issues. He's only a wannabe however, he'll not (ever,I hope) reach any plateau where he'd be considered a truly serious candidate for any position.

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