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

    Rubio's view of history is a little limited. Fair enough, he's young and not particularly bright. But I wonder if he seriously thinks that Obama is more "divisive" than, say, FDR or for that matter Abraham Lincoln. REALLY?

    May 20, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Blindersoff

    Yeah,check this . . . The Republican brand is still delusional as usual . . . facing the mirror with deceit and prehistoric conservative ideology that never worked for the masses, only the privileged few got the brass ring. Rubio, the Cuban sell out, is only looking to line his pockets off the bigotry and exaggerated fear, gloom, doom perpetrated by the conservative wing nuts. The republican leadership are good at creating a chaotic situation and coming to it's rescue. They created this mess we are in, set around and sabotage this president every attempt to restore America from their hack. Now the republican leadership is standing at the front of the line pointing their fingers at this president, calling him, what they, themselves are,dividers and failures. Period.

    May 20, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. JohnRJohnson

    So, Rubio, in the act of making a highly inflammatory and divisive speech, attacks the President for being divisive. How dumb do these people think voters are? (Don't answer that. I already know the answer).

    May 20, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Slarty Bartfast

    Unspoken sentiment of the opponents of the Commander in Chief, Killer of Bin-Laden, and Rescuer of the American Automobile Industry: If only Obama weren't black, then he wouldn't be so divisive.

    May 20, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. R1983

    If anybody has united this country is our wonderful and smart President Obama, Rubio is talking all the BS and when he
    were here in my state of Florida, believe me he did nothing for us here. Pretty boy is hiding something and it will come out
    just in time to same the day. All he care about is these Cuban's here in Miami. Please don't let this guy fool you all. Check
    his eyes out, and if you can read people he has a sweet little secret .

    May 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. AKsteve

    Bob makes a good point...

    When has anyone ever heard a republican say "compromise"? They refuse to compromise. They put party before politics. And then they have the nerve to blame Dems for being divisive.

    I don't think there has ever been a more hateful, destructive and self interested political party than todays GOP.

    May 20, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. Othello

    Keep listening to Rubio and the other divisive republicans. Nothing they say is based on facts. When people don't want to see their own faults, they project their image onto others. Cut off Fox impersonating real news.

    May 20, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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