Rubio unleashes harsh attack on Obama in South Carolina
May 19th, 2012
09:55 PM ET
3 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. Norma Vessels

    Senator Marco Rubio is a case of study ... he's confused about who he's talking about. He said all the things we know is wrong with himself, and the Republican party. We know the Republican party is destructive, intrusive, selfish .. wanting to bring down the middle class, and poor .. just to save money. They want to give it all to the rich, the ones that have too much already. The Senator is right in his criticisms .. he just misplaced the name of the ones he's talking about. Our president is none of the things he said .. so could it be himself, and Representative Boehner he's talking about? Yes, most likely.

    May 20, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  2. donteatlikeanidiot

    Marco Rubio is right-wing robot who just spews what he thinks the brainwashed devotees of his party want to hear. What a sellout you are, Rubio. Phoney as a three dollar bill. Come up with some original material, and try thinking for yourself – then you might be somewhat interesting. I doubt it, though.

    May 20, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  3. SNAPPA

    Are these people serious? President Obama hasn't divided anyone, it's the Amerian Taliban Party that has been seperating people and attacking women, gays and anyone else who doesn't see things there way. They are the ones who keep obstructing anything being done with the economy. I wonder if the American Taliban really believes what they say or are simply banking on people being incredibly stupid?

    May 20, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  4. I'M JUST SAYING TOO....

    Talk about "the pot calling the kettle black", are kidding me? Did I just read a conservative even allowing the word "devisive" to roll off his lips? Conservatives have taken that word to an all NEW high!! Even if the President were devisive (which he is soooooo NOT), he certainly could not keep up with you losers regarding being devisive. Next you'll be calling him an "obstuctionist" Into deflecting blame much???

    May 20, 2012 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  5. Norbert Maska

    The GOP,"a more diverse party than the Democratic party is." Maybe Marco was standing behind a curtain so he was unable to see the the cultural and racial makeup of his audience. GOP diversity? I don't think so.

    May 20, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  6. pb

    Rubio is so Republican! Loud-mouthed and just look at those TV evangelical hand and fist waving! Do we ever get tired of these phonies. There was never a more devise person than George W. Bush, whose very face belied his hatred of anyone disagreeing with him, especiallly Democrats.

    May 20, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  7. dnick47

    Hey Rubio, kiss my ________. Preach to the choir and yell and scream but for people who do not watch Fox News and are sane, we know you are just spouting fustration at Obama record because he is suceeding whereas Romney and you and your Party are failuress.

    May 20, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  8. Stan

    “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.

    I love it when partisan ideologues say stupid stuff. Apparently Rubio has never heard of George W. Bush, who was easily as divisive as Obama. I wonder if when he says stuff like this, if he actually believes it or if he knows what he's saying is a pile of crap and just assumes his audience will buy it.

    Of course it is just a matter of time before an Obama supporter says something equally as stupid, like that Obama initiated the Bush tax cuts... Our politicians are a running joke.

    May 20, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  9. awsomedeal

    Nothing but trashing obama puts a big ya-hoo for birthers , baggers , and the big buffons obama/biden 2012

    May 20, 2012 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  10. Sam

    “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,”
    The repulians/teabaggers have faught Obama at ever turn, every word he says. Now they want to say he is divisive.

    May 20, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  11. John

    Rubio is correct. Obama has set this country back 25 years with his class warfare. And, now I see the NAACP supports Obama's gay marriage proposal? How transparent! I wonder when the NAACP will condemn the "Reverends" Jackson and Wright for their anti-semetic rants? Hypocrites! Does anyone really believe these spineless opportunists would ever publicly oppose anything Dear Leader says?

    May 20, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  12. Phat Daddy

    I wouldn't categorize these comments as "harsh"; they seem pretty accurate to me and millions of others.

    May 20, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  13. Jimbo

    This use of the word "warrior" is ridiculous. To be as Katon Dawson says, a "conservative warrior", what does that mean? Is he going to do battle with all those that aren't conservatives? And on another point, Lindsey Graham said Rubio was just like Ronald Regan. What does he mean by that? Did Rubio make a movie with Angie Dickinson?

    May 20, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  14. Darnell

    I find it strange that a Republican has the audacity to say the the President is splitting the country apart, yet they openly say that gay citizens who pay their taxes don't deserve to have the right of Life LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, that all men are created equally.

    May 20, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  15. mitsu

    once a cuban, always a cuban, never a leader, never with thought of what comes from the mouth. rubio, how far up romney's buttt (gop) can you get

    May 20, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Harsh attack ???

    FORWARD over the cliff...

    May 20, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  17. Joe Bleau

    Yo, Rubio. Clue (this one is free, since you don't have any of your own): YOU are the divisive ones.

    May 20, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  18. PTNY

    John,

    Rubio is a fool and so are you. Set back 25 years? Everything the citizens of the USA have fought for for the past 25 years is being turned back, one by one by the Republicans secretly passing or repealing laws at midnight meetings.
    Your distractions, NAACP, Gay, "Reverends" , all have nothing to do with the hard fought progress that this country has made.
    Stay focused on what America really needs and wants. Not what some Freshman Senator or religious group thinks they want to make a name for themselves.

    May 20, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  19. vp

    Fiction is all the Republicans can spew.

    after they've emptied your wallet

    May 20, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  20. krgguy

    The GOP is the party that wants to divide America. Wake up IDIOTS. They want a 2-class society......rich and poor. And they want everyone to have be married with children and they want you to be a Christian. Screw the other types of individuals in this country....the gays, single women, blacks, immigrants...etc. Rubio is totally off when he says the GOP is a more divise party.....LMFAO. What a complete moron. Once again, they only want WHITE, CHRISTIAN men as part of their party. @JOHN & PHAT DADDY.....bet you two fit that bill well. Good for you!

    May 20, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  21. mitsu

    what has the republicans done for our country other than starting wars so their buddies with DOD contracts to make money for them.

    May 20, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  22. PTNY

    It would serve the Republicans and the public well to remember or just know that the things Obama promised and I voted for, Obama Care for one, He did it! This was not a failed policy. He did what I hired him to do and you're not taking it away!

    May 20, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  23. Jedi Mind Trick

    Marco, Marco, Marco....

    So there were no 1 and 99%er's prior to Obama? There were no haves and have nots? There weren't the rich and the poor?

    The truth Marco is jobs and the economy have improved, (even Ramknee agrees with this). But no... you have to continue the attack dog, misinformation, subterfuge BS that Republicans and Tea Baggers are historically known for.

    By the way, dummy, What is Ramknee's plan for the economy other than give the rich an even larger tax break.

    Quit being a boot-licker, and please, please, please stop carrying the Mormon man's water!

    May 20, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  24. Ray

    This is news? Another empty suit from the Republican party stating the opposite of what is true and hoping people will beleive it. This tactic may work for a while, but eventually the truth shines through. The GOP and TP have created NOTHING BUT class warfare and division in this country by not compromising and not accepting the legitamacy of the president who was elected by a majority of the U.S. voters. Time for the Democrats to grow a pair and go on the offensive.

    May 20, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  25. John

    Mario Rubio i use to think was a smart man until now. The reason President Obama Is so hard to work with Is because you Republican flat out refuse to work with me. Mitch McConnell said since the first day that Obama was President that It was going to be the Republican Jobs to make President Obama a one term President. It Isn't up to the Republican ,It up to the American People. But since you Republican have been doing this that Congress has the lowest favorable view In American History. why Is this because you Republican just flat out to try and work with them on anything, and that why you Republican have come to be know has the do nothing Congress. It Isn't the President reason why nothing getting done like It should It because of you Republican. And I till believe the President Is doing a good job because he has no help and you Republican doing everything you can to get In Is way and stop any and all thing he want to do. So the American People don't need to get rid of the President, they just need to get rid of the Republican In Congress and than thing will get done and they will be Jobs and the Economy will get better. that want happen when you have people that willing to work together to get thing done for the American People.

    May 20, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
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