March 16th, 2010
08:03 AM ET
13 years ago

Rubio keeps a low profile during South Carolina tour

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption ="Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio has kept a low profile on his tour of South Carolina."]Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - A political fundraising trip doesn't typically generate the kind of buzz that Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio stirred up with their "Conservative Comeback" tour of South Carolina on Monday.

The Republican duo – one an outspoken Senator from South Carolina prone to irking members of his own party, the other a Florida Senate candidate and golden boy of the conservative movement – announced their joint three-city tour last month with a sleek Web site,, that sounded suspiciously like a future presidential ticket.

Campaign aides for Rubio's opponent in the GOP Senate primary in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist, accused Rubio of arrogantly harboring national ambitions by traveling to a crucial presidential primary state before he'd even won his first statewide race.

Aware of the potentially uncomfortable imagery of a hotshot Senate candidate glad-handing in a state known as a White House launching pad, aides to Rubio and DeMint were quick to downplay the trip shortly after it was announced, calling it a routine fundraising effort.

That concern was likely a chief reason why Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker who commands a healthy lead against Crist in recent polls, was largely invisible to members of the media during the South Carolina swing, which took the pair to Charleston, Columbia and Greenville.

According to people in the rooms during Monday's three closed-door receptions, Rubio was welcomed with standing ovations and delivered remarks about his parents' emigration from Cuba, his love of country and his commitment to conservative ideals.

Randy Page, the president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, said Rubio was "mobbed" after his appearance in Columbia. "Everyone was very pumped and excited," he said.

But before and after the events, Rubio slipped away and left DeMint to do the talking when reporters appeared.

"All the new young faces in the party get vetted out for a presidential race earlier than they should and probably not to their liking," said former South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson. "I am sure that Marco Rubio is just looking to win a Senate race."

An agreeable Rubio did chat briefly Monday with a CNN reporter, but only when he was met emerging from an elevator with his suitcase at his Charleston hotel. He answered questions about a weekend news report that revealed extravagant spending by two of his political committees. He also spoke warmly of DeMint.

"This has been fun and great reception," Rubio said of his South Carolina jaunt. "I am just grateful to Senator DeMint that he would just introduce me to his friends here and help me raise some money."

For most of the day, though, it was DeMint who was the face of the "Conservative Comeback." Asked about Rubio's low profile in the Palmetto State, DeMint quipped, "He spared me [from reporters] when I was in Florida, and I said I would spare him when he was here."

DeMint, who endorsed Rubio early in the Senate race when he was a long shot against Crist, did his part to play down the hype surrounding the trip. He said it's not unusual for candidates to receive help from benefactors in other states, noting that he traveled to Kentucky and Texas to raise money during his first campaign for Senate in 2004.

The Crist campaign, not satisfied with that explanation, once again accused Rubio of "gallivanting around a presidential primary state." After trashing Rubio's record on spending, Crist spokeswoman Andrea Saul told CNN that Rubio "clearly thinks he will be anointed in this primary so he is already eyeing Pennsylvania Avenue. "

DeMint, who is up for re-election in November, made clear that Rubio wasn't the only benefiting from the trip: the two Republicans had established a joint fundraising committee for their effort. DeMint's campaign manager Ian Headley said the tour was expected to raise over $100,000, money that will be divvied up between each campaign.

"This just creates a little critical mass to have one senator and one prospect traveling the state," DeMint said of the tag-team effort, adding that he hopes to bring other candidates he supports to South Carolina. "It's a little more interesting than just an incumbent going around the state."

But DeMint did say the visit was about more than just money.

"We're making a point, and our message is the same," he said, outlining he and Rubio's shared vision for smaller government. "If we can get Marco Rubio in Washington, he will help us re-shape the Republican Party first, and that will help us re-earn the trust of the American people."

Ultimately, Rubio's target audience Monday was not the media, nor was it the voters of Florida. He was raising money, and by most accounts the donors liked what they saw.

Republican National Committee member Cindy Costa attended the fundraiser in Charleston. She said she was at first taken aback at how young the 38-year old Rubio looked in person. But Costa said she was immediately impressed.

"He is very refreshing," she told CNN. "It's wonderful to have new faces on the national scene. It's wonderful to have somebody that's fresh, that's new, that's got good sound ideas and knows how to cut back on spending."

Filed under: 2010 • Florida • Marco Rubio • South Carolina
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Republicans are Repugnant Taliban

    Seems a little presumptious by a couple of nobodies in the political arena to have aspirations for President when one hasn't even won an election yet, but then they are Repugliban who are always presumptious that they are the real deal, Hmmm, yep real as in real losers.

    March 16, 2010 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    That concern was likely a chief reason why Rubio...was largely invisible to members of the media ..."


    Sure, that and the fact that he would have to answer a myriad of pesky questions regarding having his relatives on his payroll.

    Interesting that they refer to him as the "golden boy" as "rubio" means blonde in spanish. This Rubio is as dumb as they come.

    March 16, 2010 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  3. Rubi Who???

    I hope he left the credit card in Florida.

    March 16, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Get It Out Of Your Head

    Sen. Demint-ed will never be POTUS. He's the epitome of the Party of No. If he bacame President, he'll try to hang the confederate flag up in D.C.

    March 16, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Some may call Rubio a golden boy, but, in reality, he is a puppet for Dick Armey.

    March 16, 2010 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  6. T'SAH from Virginia

    LOW PROFILE – meaning not spending the taxpayer’s money for personal use????

    "If we can get Marco Rubio in Washington, he will help us re-shape the Republican Party first, and that will help us re-earn the trust of the American people."

    OH, so you're finally admitting that YOU LIED in the past and lost "...the trust of the American people"!!!

    March 16, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  7. GI Joe

    Low profile? He's bending down to kiss Demented shoes in order to try AGAIN to be purified.

    March 16, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  8. D. Bunker

    Great, two thoughtless peas from the same hyper-partisan pod, caring only about themselves and not the public. Let's vote out ALL the pod-people!

    March 16, 2010 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  9. joel palmer

    He had to duck out for a back wax

    March 16, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  10. Pragmatic

    Rubio? Conservative Darling? Their Great White Hope? Then they had better pay attention to the skeletons rattling in Rubio's closet .. his chief financial officer indicted for fraud and now Rubio's questionable finances ... what he did with his republican party charge card! Read your Florida newspapers ... its all coming out! It ain't pretty!

    March 16, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  11. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Republicans think he is a golden boy because he exudes the republican ideal of being ethically challenged. He is a cabana boy for big business, not a golden boy.

    March 16, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  12. Sniffit

    Now you can thank me, I DID vote for Demint. Keep up the good work, Senator!!

    March 16, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |