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. Scottish Mama

    There are classes, the poor, the middle class, the upper middle class, and wealthy a$$. If you think the wealthy has not infiltrated our government and banks you are delusional. They have set up camp to make there rules for them and the rules for the rest.
    A vote for the republicans is a vote against small businesses and the working people. The fight is evident when they constantly vote for tax breaks and fight to deregulate businesses that the wealthy own and operate. Get a clue, they use womens rights, religion, and gimmicks to keep the pius in the flock they need for their electorial base. They are the herding dogs, you vote against yourself when you vote republican.

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

    This guy must have been asleep during the cheney-bush years

    May 20, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Rubio must be auditioning for the VP position with the primary role as attack dog during the campaign.

    May 20, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  4. 13directors

    Rubio you possess a biased memory. If there was ever a more polarizing president in recent history, that would be "W."

    May 20, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  5. American

    Doublespeak coming from Rubio(-Blunt) whose destructive & divisive agenda attacks American women through class warfare & its elitist ideology.

    A sad hypocrisy...again

    May 20, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  6. PTNY

    There are a few key statements that the right was told to repeat all day long.

    If you say it enough they'll believe it!

    Failed Policies!
    Class warfare!
    Dividing this country... Ah hem...did you see the Ricketts plan?

    No, all you're doing is repeating the same thing...like bumper stickers!
    Right, please come up with something better for a change.

    May 20, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  7. Citizen Jackson

    Maybe the south is changing. A southern crowd, in the state that first succeeded the country, and calls for succession by DeMint himself in 2009, gave a standing ovation to a Cuban born elected official. Rubio calls the President divisive and destructive. Was he paying attention to some of the tea party rallies, the fact that DeMint, the Senator who introduced him to the crowd of South Carolinians, let it be known that the republican elected officials will not support anything the President put forward and said they would make healthcare reform his Waterloo. Sounds like people willing to work together, bring the nation together? Rubio looks and sounds like the typical manipulator and he has found a flock to lead to slaughter. Good for him, bad for the nation. This republican party is the MOST divisive and destructive I have ever experienced in my 47 years in this country (born and raised mind you, disclaimer for the birthers out there).

    May 20, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  8. grahame rhodes

    They can't stand it can they! Obama is far more popular than any of them will ever be so they resort to this schoolyard garbage ala; "My Dad's batter than your Dad" etc: Hope Obama wins so that the USA can get out of the dark ages and join the rest of the world. If it does not then as the Roman empire failed so wiil the USA, Just another memory

    May 20, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  9. Scottish Mama

    President Obama is succeeding even in the face of complete do nothing congress. Just think what he could do with the economy and jobs "help". Maybe we could pay off the debt? History "republicans run up the tab, democrats pay it off".

    May 20, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. john stein

    This Just In....Pot Calls Kettle Black!'

    May 20, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. GOP is for the rich

    I see......the republican tactic this year is.......look in the mirror!

    May 20, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. CJPA

    President Obama was very willing to be inclusive to Republicans at the beginning, until they showed their true colors and refused to meet with him, socialize with him, or vote with him. They are the ones who have been divisive and caused the President to stop trying to please them since they vocalized their game – defeat Obama at all costs!!

    May 20, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  13. Scottish Mama

    @Max- Selective memory?lol

    May 20, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  14. Ann

    Ah, but it's not divisive to be divisive and to attack someone else!

    May 20, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  15. Dolce21

    Finally someone who has the brains to say it like it is!! it is truth!

    May 20, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. Scottish Mama

    @PTNY- Brainwashing at it's best? Not to mention the religious flocking to the polls to vote against themselves. The wealthy must be rolling on the floor (ROFLOL), in delight, (W.'s analogy)fool me once fool me shame on shame on me, and he could not even get that right. Strategery speaking.lol

    May 20, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  17. Steve

    Amazing how the right does not see how the policies that they want to bring here are being rejected in Europe and is not working. No investments in jobs, education, infrastructure etc. They have tried this in England , France, Spain and other countries and it does not work. Only Americans that are not informed will vote against their best interest and vote GOP. Amamzing !!!

    May 20, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. Brad

    Rubio believes if you don't believe like him and his minions then you are devisive. No, only devisive to the right wing minority who wants everything 100% their way. Notice how he went to South Carolina, one of the most racist and devisive states in the country to spill his crap. He's Cheney all over again! I don't doubt that Rubio and DeMint patted each other on the azz!

    May 20, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  19. Catzie53

    hello cnn people, I hope Sunday will be a good one. Since you won't let me comment here, I guess I'll just have to comment you to folks! I know, no one is around to read them, shocking! So sad cnn wants to silence people of different views! Why is that? Can you please explain this cnn! I know you have your bias agenda to push, I have to read them to know what I'm up against since you view me as the enemy, of course I view you as the enemy because you are the ones attacking me for my views. This isn't free America anymore and it shows here on cnn, abc, nbc, cbs, msnbc, npr and the list goes on, on and on....OH I almost forgot Fox News also... censorship to push your bias...we have no honest news rooms anymore!

    May 20, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. AmericanSam

    "Class warfare" aaarrrrrrgghhhh!!! The poor rich people. How dare they.

    May 20, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  21. PulTab

    And the rubster is already a proven liar.

    May 20, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  22. MCO

    This fool 'represents' my area. Everyone I know thinks he's a putz.

    May 20, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. mfhpr

    Rubio's just another loser that can't have everything his way so he calls his opponent bad for having good intent. All REPs that share in his claim are still telling nothing but lies. From the day Obama was elected he's been under the heaviest scrutiny and claims of illegitimacy that any POTUS has every faced. He could've been a great leader in bringing together a nation had his opponents not lied, denied, fabricated and railed against his presidency and policies that would return us to achieving once again the prosperous times of the 90s – perhaps the most prosperous decade for all Americans, not few.

    May 20, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. NoMonDukeDude

    Did Rubio ever meet or hear about Dick Cheney or is his memory as short as his ....

    May 20, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  25. ST

    Who is going to buy the garbage this anchor baby is selling? Does he think people don't see, don't hear, can not differentiate, don't think and make judgement themselves? Why play with peoples mind Marco????

    May 20, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
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