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. joshbricker

    Reblogged this on Josh Bricker.

    May 19, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  2. Dave

    I love the media's bias. If it is a republican, it is a harsh attack. If it is Obama it is clean campaigning. Give me a break.

    May 19, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Marco needs an actual record before he can talk.

    May 19, 2012 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  4. indie voter

    Marc Rubio is known as a hypocrite in the latino community. When people have hate in their heart and minds thats all they see. Obama is the most inclusive and caring president we ever had. How could you hate a president for giving his people healthcare?

    May 19, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  5. rat pt 01

    I'm pretty sure McCarthy was worst.

    May 19, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. DE

    Bush didn't get 1% of the hate and flak from the left that Obama is getting from the right.

    May 19, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  7. DE

    Bush didn't get 1% of the hate and flak from the left that Obama is getting from the right. Most of what he said is nothing but lies, that's all the right has to use against Obama, just lies.

    May 19, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  8. Joe_Politcal_Spectacle

    Rubio is Rubbish! Where was he when Bush destroyed America economically, politically, morallly etc. Until someone in the name of Republican apologises to Americans for their eight destructive years. Anybody in RINO's name will not be electable. Republicans are endager species in 2012, 2016 and beyond because Americans will never forget Bush years!

    May 19, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  9. KJ

    Dear Marco Rubio:

    Please stop dividing this country with your extreme dialogue. I have no desire to revisit our country's harsh history. So stop. Please. There are worse things than winning/losing an election.

    Signed, Katrina.

    May 19, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  10. amlcpamaine

    This man is disgusting! He thinks that by getting media attention and being a "golden boy" Hispanic he'll sweep into the white house like a white knight. But he has very little national experience and he was put into office by the zealous, ignorant tea partiers. Watch - Rubio will fold under scrutiny that shows his mob connections and his anchor-baby status. He has nothing to show for his "national office" but tea party ideology and blockage of ANY congressional progress.
    The fact that the media gives him attention to do his childish name-calling is sad, but in the end he'll be on the GOP trash heap just like the other inepts.

    May 19, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  11. CJPA

    Nice of small-town, small-minded boy Marco, to diss the President when he is at the G8 doing what Marco himself could never do!! That is, act presidential, think smart, and share his vision on a global scale to help solve the economic problems worldwide. And you were saying, Marco???

    May 19, 2012 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  12. Keep on Trying

    Hey, Rubio... maybe you forgot to look at your own party... you know, the one that has the McConnel dude who announced the first day after the election that he would make things so divisive that Obama would not be re elected. See, I know you are young and niave, but that is what a real divisive political figure looks like. This is why you are not ready for prime time, you kind of just repeat what the old people in your party tell you to.

    May 19, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. sqeptiq

    I guess President Obama is divisive...He has caused the Republican Party to come UNGLUED to the extent that they are willing to damage the country in order to damage Obama.

    May 19, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  14. Kahuna

    Yep, Rubio and the rest of the GOP considers all you Americans to be quite stupid. They don't want you to remember that they are the ones who have fought to derail everything Obama has tried to do for 3.5 years. Remember the party of NO. They're still here and very dysfunctional.

    May 19, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  15. Shamed Cuban

    Rubio has stepped over that line of decency. It looks like the republicans implanted the micro-chip already. So he hates the President, republicans do that a lot now a days. I think he's a Dweeb from Miami and a tea bagger. He clearly gives Cubans a bad name.

    May 19, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  16. LTTC

    SInce when is speaking the truth "harsh" ?

    May 19, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  17. MikeH

    Since Rubio is a proven liar about his own family history, what's wrong with him spewing even more pathological Republican lies.

    Todays Republicans = Fascists

    May 19, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  18. Jen

    All these republican can do is attach obama, but do they ever have solutions for anything. I can answer that....NO!!!

    May 19, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  19. Babe

    Yes, Barack Obama was inspiring four years ago. But you know what, Rubio? He still is. You are the disappointment because the divisiveness you see in the country today is coming from the Republican Party, and you choose to be part of the problem rather than help solve it. This rift is between the few moderates left and radical right-wingers who are so ideological and intransigent that they have halted the working of the federal government. That is not power; it is pure annihilation. The vitriol of the ultra-conservatives against our president is unconscionable, and more than a tad racist.

    You inspired people in Florida when you ran for office, and since coming to Washington you have hid in the shadow of the Tea Party, parroting their positions no matter how irrational in order to further your career. I suspect you have tanked it for the long run.

    May 19, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  20. Karm99

    "One of the most divisive and destructive political figures this country has seen"

    Senator Rubio, the very fact that you utter this statement in regard to President Obama only shows that you yourself are as divisive and destructive a political figure that this country has seen.

    I am an independent voter and we don't want to hear that garbage. This country needs thinkers and doers with ideas to get us through this worldwide economic mess.

    You sir and most of your right wing conservatives do nothing but drive a wedge between us Americans.

    I hope you realize that this country is at a crossroads. We either move forward with progressive and dynamic ideas and solutions for a modern world, or we take your "Path to Austerity" that promises to send us off the cliff like Greece.

    I know the path I will be on.

    May 19, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  21. KJ

    Dear Marco Rubio:

    Please stop dividing this country with your extreme dialogue. I have no desire to revisit our country's harsh history. So stop. Please.

    May 19, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  22. Jay

    A male version of Palin.

    May 19, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  23. The Film Professor

    Oh, really? Nice guy Obama is divisive? What about Dick "Shoot Your Friends in the Face" Darth Vader Cheney? He's a real unifying figure. And he and Dubya left the country in such good shape for Obama, and the Republicans have been so wonderfully bipartisan over the past 3 years. But hey, maybe Rubio's just a racist version of Ricky Ricardo, and all of this is meant for laughs.

    May 19, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  24. Dick Hertz

    Who cares what an anchor baby has to say?

    May 19, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  25. Thinkergal

    I am still inspired by President Obama, and find Rubio strident and unconvincing.

    May 19, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
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