Rubio unleashes harsh attack on Obama in South Carolina
May 19th, 2012
09:55 PM ET
2 years ago

Rubio unleashes harsh attack on Obama in South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio condemned President Barack Obama on Saturday in unusually harsh terms, calling him one the most “divisive” and “destructive” political figures the country has ever seen.

“For all the policy disagreements that we have with our president, it is hard to understate how much he inspired people across this country four years ago,” Rubio said at a fundraising dinner for South Carolina Republicans.

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The man who currently occupies the White House, he explained, “is a very different person.”

“We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history as we have over the last three and a half years,” Rubio said.

“They get frustrated,” he said. “They can’t win on their record. And so they have chosen to go down a different road, one that I think is destructive, counterproductive and very unfortunate.”

He accused the Obama campaign of attempting to “pit Americans against each other” by engaging in class warfare and unfairly attacking Republicans on gender issues.

“Never have we seen such an effort to divide the American people in an effort to win an election as we have today,” Rubio said.

Rubio was addressing roughly 1,200 attendees at the South Carolina Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Banquet, the state party’s largest fundraiser of the year.

The speech raised $300,000 for the party.

A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, Brad Woodhouse, called Rubio's criticisms "as dishonest as they are desperate" and accused Republicans of abandoning bipartisanship early in the president's term.

"No one has tried harder to reach across the aisle on everything from jobs and trade to a plan to get our fiscal house in order than has President Obama and every step of the way Republican leaders have either buckled to the far right wing of their party or decided to put politics ahead of moving our country forward," Woodhouse said.

Rubio exhorted the crowd to rally behind the Republican Party - which the onetime tea party insurgent described as “the logical home” for conservatives - this November.

Though the freshman senator showed flashes of the attack dog mentality that would be required of him if Mitt Romney chooses him as his running mate, a dim prospect according to people in both Romney’s orbit and Rubio’s, his remarks were largely a paean to American exceptionalism.

His speech, laced with references to his modest upbringing as the son of Cuban immigrants, won him a nearly minute-long standing ovation at its conclusion.

Though a few of the GOP activists and donors in the audience said Rubio might be too untested on the national level to serve as Romney’s running mate this year, they said he has a bright future should he decide to seek higher office down the road.

“I love Marco Rubio,” said Lin Bennett, the chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party. “I love his conservative values. He is sharp. He is brilliant. When you listen to him speak, you know it’s coming from his heart. It’s not a political speech.”

Katon Dawson, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said that if Rubio does run for president someday, he won’t have to worry about trust issues with the Republican base here.

“He has already made nice with South Carolina,” Dawson said. “He is a conservative warrior.”

Dawson said Rubio, along with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, represent the kind of candidates the Republican Party needs to do a better job of recruiting.

“We were in desperate need of a DNA change,” he said. “The Republican Party has a tendency to get old. They bring youth and energy and excitement for us.”

Rubio broached that topic himself at one point during his speech, calling the GOP “a more diverse party than the Democratic party is.”

If Rubio does choose to embark on a national campaign in 2016 or later, he got an important head start on Saturday in this key Republican primary state.

He was introduced at the dinner by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, one of the nation’s leading conservatives and an early political patron during Rubio’s 2010 Senate bid.

The state’s other senator, Lindsey Graham, earlier compared Rubio to Ronald Reagan.

In preparation for the weekend, the South Carolina GOP commissioned a slick 18-page program for the convention that featured a gauzy portrait of Rubio splashed across the cover.

Convention-goers and banquet attendees were issued badges emblazoned with Rubio’s face as they entered the events.

Rubio, who was accompanied on his trip by Terry Sullivan, one his top political advisers with deep South Carolina ties, also hosted a small fundraiser for his political action committee with Columbia area business leaders.

And multiple Republican sources told CNN that Rubio advisers convened a small meeting with Republican state legislators and conservative activists after the banquet.


Filed under: 2012 • 2012 VP Pick • Marco Rubio • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (382 Responses)
  1. BeverlyNC

    When aren't Republicans on the attack on everything President Obama says or does? Rubio is "projecting" the Republican acts of obstruction, hate speech, and destruction of our economy, the workings of our Congress to pass legislation, their unwillingness to compromise on anything, the destruction of the rights of workers, women and even voting in Republican-controlled states, and now even more nasty, slanderous, false attacks on President Obama. Republicans have no credible candidate in Romney, nothing to run on in terms of solutions, accomplishments, or even understanding of the issues of the People. They have spent all their time working for the corporations, protecting the rich, and undermining our government and our President. I call that betrayal and not one Republican should be allowed near any local ,state, or national office come November if we want a final and full recovery of our country.

    May 20, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  2. Ron

    The Senator is either uninformed or lying. Many of us remember the use of Willie Horton, the swift boating of Senator John Kerry, the birthed/muslim/Rev. Jeremiah Wright attacks, and more. He is too intelligent to be peddling such nonsense.

    May 20, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  3. Slappy

    Interesting that GOP activists said he was "untested" on a national level. Seems like there was another untested, first term Sentator four years ago that was also "untested" (and un-vetted). He was also a handsome minority who spoke well and inspired people. Look how well that has turned out for the country.

    May 20, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  4. Ex-GOP Con

    Where's your birth certificate Rubio??? Go back to CUBA!

    May 20, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  5. 2020

    This bulldog speaks Spanish

    May 20, 2012 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  6. Ex-GOP Con

    Actually the current GOP has been the most divisive I have ever seen. Accusations of socialism, communism, birth certificates. The VILE that spews out of that party has changed the course of politics in America.

    May 20, 2012 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  7. usagoblue

    What a load 0f crap. rubio and the teabagging liars are the ons deviding this country. nothing but ignorant raving lunitics. you are the ones raging war on woman with your defunding of womans health repealing of equal pay and giving the 1% tax breaks by stealing from the 99% but thats okay were sick of you and come election day we are going to get rid of the lot of you and get our country back

    May 20, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  8. sithlord1

    Obama has raised 115,000,000. Why doesn't he spread the wealth with that? He could give that money back to the 100,000,000 poor and lower class americans and they would pay off their debt and spend money to boom the economy.

    May 20, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  9. Ron

    Amazing. Awaiting moderation when inflamatory nonsense is all over the gay marriage posts.

    May 20, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  10. Really?

    They have nothing left but insults and rudeness. Let the bottom feeders crawl to defeat, it's enjoyable to watch

    May 20, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  11. Marley

    When President Obama compromises and works with Republicans, they call attack him as WEAK.

    When President Obama kicks their asses, they call him DIVISIVE.

    In other words, they are losing the POLITICAL GAME against Obama so they are now resorting to crying.

    May 20, 2012 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  12. James A.

    Someone needs to inform Sen. Rubio that is is Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist that are "the most 'divisive' and 'destructive' political figures the country has ever seen."

    May 20, 2012 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  13. Slappy

    Sorry, poor editing on my part in the comment above.

    Feel free to attack my idea based on my poor typing skills this morning.

    I stand by my idea that we are suffering today due to an emotional selection of a president who was not ready for the job.

    May 20, 2012 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  14. Billy dabs

    Sure Marco Rubio the POTUS is divisive. The American people have clear proof that the GOP's only plan over the last 3.5 years has been to make the President fail and by extension making America fail.

    May 20, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  15. Trailboss

    This is the guy that forgot what year he arrived on the main land Cuba...I see nothing but hate and put me down. Hey get this in your head and get all of the money you can because it ant going to work this so you may as well start making plans for 2016 because you people are not smart at all and you need to lose the elect for one reason.Man you don't think about the kid's.Do you think my grand are going to forget doing without and watching there parents crying because there's no food and we're being put out on the street at anytime. I don't blame you make it all not because it's going to awhile.

    May 20, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  16. Trailboss

    This is the guy that forgot what year he arrived on the main land from Cuba...I see nothing but hate and put me down. Hey get this in your head and get all of the money you can because it ant going to work this so you may as well start making plans for 2016 because you people are not smart at all and you need to lose the elect for one reason.Man you don't think about the kid's.Do you think my grand are going to forget doing without and watching there parents crying because there's no food and we're being put out on the street at anytime. I don't blame you make it all not because it's going to awhile.

    May 20, 2012 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  17. Kienan

    Really Rubio? Accusing Obama of engaging in class warfare while AT an event called the "Silver" Elephant Banquet which raised over $300,000 for Republicans. I wonder why the President thinks there is a problem here....

    May 20, 2012 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  18. pflatman

    What a massive tool. B.S. exemplified. Obama may stretch the truth, but this guy? FOS, just to pander to the Republican dweebs. Comparing Rubio to Reagan is like comparing Howdy Doody to the puppeteer.

    May 20, 2012 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  19. jthomasin

    He said the GOP is a more diverse party than the democrats are? I didn't know one could talk for so long out of one's rear end and be taken seriously.

    May 20, 2012 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  20. Pander Bear

    Rubio broached that topic himself at one point during his speech, calling the GOP “a more diverse party than the Democratic party is.”

    More unmitigated BS from the GOP's version of Ricky Ricardo.

    May 20, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  21. Marry

    The GOP has simply become disgusting! They have been working against the American people now for over 10 years, with deception and bold lies in every direction. Record???? They should look at their own party of “NO” and the destruction they have created and nothing positive to show for. How dare they accuse the President of “dividing the country”! November cannot come soon enough to send the GOP/TP packing!

    May 20, 2012 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  22. Realitybites

    “We were in desperate need of a DNA change,” he said. “The Republican Party has a tendency to get old."

    Get old??? It's been the party of old white men for about two decades now.

    May 20, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  23. Realitybites

    Rubio broached that topic himself at one point during his speech, calling the GOP “a more diverse party than the Democratic party is.

    Huh?????????

    May 20, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  24. Realitybites

    The state’s other senator, Lindsey Graham, earlier compared Rubio to Ronald Reagan.

    Really? I'm very certain Reagan would not have said some of the nasty things Rubio's said about our sitting President.

    May 20, 2012 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  25. Realitybites

    Rubio is clearly a clown. I see nothing but a suit with nothing in it.

    May 20, 2012 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
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