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. American

    It's obvious Rubio is following the transparent art of projection from Karl Rove. Divisive, indeed.

    May 20, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  2. Lucky18

    More BS from "the" wimp!

    May 20, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. tony

    Why are all the 10 Commandment loving Conservatives, so keen to ignore the 9th.

    May 20, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  4. bill dunn

    Thank god for Obama, he saved our country after eight disaster years of w. Rubio is just another right wing nut job without a clue.

    May 20, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  5. Tom from Canonsburg

    Rubio is a propagandist and is only good at preaching to the choir.

    May 20, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. A simple choice..

    It takes but a second to wreck a car, but it will take several weeks and cost money to repair it.
    It takes but a few minutes for a house to burn to the ground, but it may take months and lots of money to rebuild it.
    It takes but a few months to wreck an economy, but it will take years and large sums of money to repair the damage and return it to what it was.
    It takes but one lie to wreck a relationship, but given enough time one might learn to trust that person again.

    Can you imagine what this country would be like if the republicans actually tried to help, instead of obstructing everything the President of the United States does to rebuild the house that Bush burned to the ground? Even assuming that they did jump on board, how long would it take for us to trust them again after not one, but hundreds, if not thousands, of lies and half truths thrown out there to divide and confuse the people? Under the Obama administration, and against all odds, unemployment is dropping, the economy is recovering and this country is moving forward again. If you trusted your 16 year old child with the keys to your car and they total it, would you be willing to just hand them the keys again after having it repaired?

    Seems llike a pretty simple choice to me – Obama 2012 if you are for the people, or Romney 2012 if you are for big business, lining the pockets of the rich and killing our troops, no matter the cost.

    May 20, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  7. Nona Yerbiznez

    The fact that Rubio is saying this says it all. Consider the source. I wonder what crazies would pay to listen to this fool. Those are the people I worry about.

    May 20, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. Jersey Girl

    Rubio won't be made VP; if Willard (yep, that's his real first name) R-Money isn't his usual clueless self, he will be told that Rubio won't attract every Hispanic to him. Certainly Mexicans for the most part won't . Also, the Obama people would put out the fact that Rubio tried to pretend his family came over from Cuba because of Castro, but it's not true! His parents came over BEFORE Castro came into power, so Rubio can't use that claim anymore. Sorry, Mitt, you'll have to come with another VP from the slim pickins!

    May 20, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  9. Viet.Vet

    Typical Republican talking points, throw a lot of garbage against the wall hoping that it sticks, yet he like the other republican absent any viable solutions, still believing the majority of americans are dumb and want know the difference. Big suprise 2012!

    May 20, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  10. New Moon Rising

    Of course if you were to sk any of these Tea Party Lunatics just EXACTLY HOW the president has divided the country .. they would be a stuttering loss of words since it is thier partyt hat has stymied every effort to regain the economy of this country.. once you have the minority leader of the senate saying the republicans TOP PRIORITY is to make Obama a One Term President, then ALL THEIR EFFORTS can Be VIIEWED THRU THAT VERY IMPORTANT PRISM .... Republicans Suck, they obviously hate this country and ashould really jsut get on aboat and leave if they hate it here so much ...

    May 20, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. PaMom

    I completely agree that the way to success for a man with no credentials is to "divide and conquer". It is very upsetting to see this division and loss of values in this country. The democrates use issues that are not a federal governmment concern to distract from the real issues and for that, I truly resent Obama and his party. Wake up america, educate yourself and open your minds to truly listen to both sides. Stop being led by the White House Pied Piper!

    May 20, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  12. Susan in NC

    Divisive indeed! What a laugh! DIVISIVE = The Republican'ts Mantra! Rubio is just another bully talking trash and trying to threaten those of us don't buy their repeated LIES! A TeaPartier to the core......

    May 20, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  13. DrDanno

    If Obama is "one the most “divisive” and “destructive” political figures the country has ever seen" it certainly has nothing to do with what he has or hasn't done, as his politics for the most part have been centrist, at times right of center and only occasionally left of center, the latter dealing primarily with social issues like gay rights and women's health issues. Rather, if he is devisive, it's more related to the perceptions of a right wing in this country who have become so paranoid and so extreme that they can't tolerate this man on ANY level and have done nothing in the 3 1/2 years he's been in office that wasn't focused on scuttling his presidency. The right can barely tolerate a Mormon let alone a black man, regardless of either one's political leanings. How can you trust the judgment of anyone who espouses a myopic and extremist viewpoint such as 'anyone but Obama'? My impression of Obama is that given what the Republican Congress and the former administration gave him to work with, he's accomplished an incredible number of very positive and constructive things. He deserves to be reelected. Even Romney's own party find him 'divisive'. Stay the course.

    May 20, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  14. Marie MD

    Please shut up lying clown. The President wanted to help everyone in this country. Your teapublikans with the help of demi god norquist and the koch bros re the ones who made sure you lemmings (sorry little guys) are the ones signing pledges to tank the country at any cost just as long as the President fails. Unfortunately he fails so does the country.
    Why don't you and your family go back to Cuba. You are just an anchor baby.

    May 20, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  15. Doug Collins

    I find it ironic Rubio is stating how divisive Obama is when he is introduced by to of the most divisive Republicans inn the Country.
    Rubio should tether his future to those who work to improve the United States than those who gain monetarily by playing their small minded games.
    Rubio would aslo best serve himself by actually accomplishing something as a Senator before reaching for a better paying job. We already have one President doing that.

    May 20, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  16. likeAplan

    The sons and daughters of immigrants are the leading show pieces of the Republican Party, yet their position on immigration is absurd.

    May 20, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  17. Phil T. Listener

    If Rubio and Nikki Haley, represent the future of the Republican Party, then our country is in a very sad state.
    They may bring energy and excitement as Mr. Dawson states in the article, but they still represent the tired message of a disingenuous bunch of hypocrites. The party has shut down our president in every attempt he made to fix our economy and help the working class of America.

    They also seem to be interested in one thing, their own political futures.

    May 20, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. Natalie in MN

    Considering what Obama has had to deal with starting from day one (i.e. McConnell's snarky comment about the number one GOP goal: to make Obama a one-term President) it amazes me just how good a job he has done. Rubio, you are owned by the Teabaggers and have become their latest mascot. Obama tried to "reach across the isle" only to be slapped by the GOP. The GOP has been hijacked by the far right. Not what this country needs and they'll get that message in Nov.

    May 20, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. caeser

    The "Rube's" political future DEPENDS on not accepting Romney's Vice Presidency and that goes for anyone else as well.

    May 20, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. David Paul Caron

    Rubio sounds like many other politicians who refuse to compromise for the sake of the country. Despite some of his shortcommings, the president has been the one willing to compromise but has had opponents who wreck havoc with social issues while people need jobs. Where are the ideas , specific ones, that we need instead of dividing americans to make obama a one time president,

    May 20, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. Natalie in MN

    Yes, anytime the GOP teabaggers get their undies in a knot, it means Obama is right on target. Go Obama, you have them running and we have your back!

    May 20, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Larry

    Someone get Rubio some Obamacare. He's fallen, bumped his head, and lost touch with reality.

    May 20, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. josephine

    With all these fundraisers,
    he may not need to use the party credit card to pay for his personal expenses anymore.

    May 20, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  24. vic , nashville ,tn

    70% Latinos support Obama , First Rubio try to solve Latino’s problem before attacking Obama

    May 20, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. deeperezscott

    HNO (Hispanic in Name Only) Rubio is ridiculous. It is the Repubs that, on DAY ONE launched their Devisive and Destructive Campaign against our President and our Government. They are propelled by the far right, hate filled extremists in the Tea Party.
    Shame on Rubio for being so devisive and for supporting such a destructive onslaught against our President and our Government, especially during these times of war. SHAMEFUL!

    May 20, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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