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. Chumlee

    Rubio is a lightweight who has a very large ego.

    Stay in Florida, Rubio, you are as much of an idiot as the party of obstructionists you represent.

    Obama 2012

    May 20, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  2. GBfromOhio

    Riiiight ... because the Republican Party works so hard to reach out to all the people and be the party of diversity while being positive and uplifting at all times LOL. The irony, hypocricy and vitriol being spewed by these right wing knuckleheads is astonishing.

    May 20, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. Kris

    Marco Rubio and his Right Wing Crazy Wing Nut Party are a fine group to talk huh? Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet the Pot calling the Kettle Black!

    May 20, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. roscoe

    Obama divisive & destructive? Must be an etch-a-sketch memory of the last 4 years is that the republicans have valued demonizing Obama over everything else. They would destroy the country if they could hurt Obama.

    May 20, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Hate and fear starting all over again. The Republicans did not learned anytihing new.
    Good for Obama because he will win in november but it's a shame for your country.
    America, get out yuor lazy chairs and support your President! RID him of the Republican handcuffs.
    The world is watching!

    Ted van Tol
    The Netherlands

    May 20, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. Kris

    Oh and please notice that he is is in SC....talking about this blather. SC is a place that ANYBODY who is a Wing Nut Republican will win. Let us not forget that he just got caught making up his book "Autobiography".

    May 20, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. Candace Clough

    yeah that whole "if you're not with us, you're against us..." oh wait

    May 20, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. T'sah From Virginia

    ►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!◄

    @Catzie53 – You just named EVERY news organization out there – If you switch channels between all of them, you will get a FULL understanding as what is going on in the world!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!!

    May 20, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Rob1961

    I often wonder what planet some of these Republicans live on. The obstruct, introduce idea after idea that favors wealthy, white males consistently and then yell at their opponents for introducing class warfare. The war is led by them against the moderate, multi-ethic, male and female middle class with which they are unfamiliar!

    May 20, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  10. DaveinSC

    Desperation is the key word to describe Republican strategy. When your candidate has such famous quotes as , I like firing people, I'm one of the unemployed too, and such blunders as having money in Swiss and Caymen island bank accounts, car elevators in your home, paying half the percentage that most tax paying Amercans do while making millions for not creating a single job. The etch a sketch fiasco, the health care fiasco, and any of the dozens of flips that have appeared in the Romney campaign, "desperate" is a complete and accurate description of Republicans campaign.

    May 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. Joe

    Rubio speaks some common sense. The thinned-skinned liberals on this site seem irrationally upset! What else is new? Oh, by the way, the a-listers are at it again....don't miss the big shindig at S J Parkers house. How did the "rich" get so attached to the "party of the people"? Hypocrits!

    May 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. Ric in Pennsylvania

    If his and Hayley's DNA is what they want to inject into the American society – no thanks! I'll opt out. This guy is still wet behind his ears, and is pushing his luck on how far he can go being latino....He is starting to get irritating like Palin.

    May 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  13. Jacob

    Poor pitiful republicans. All they have are pathetic personal attacks. Rubio is so vacuous he has nothing of substance to criticize the president about so he screams like a child instead. I'd expect Demint to be a Rubio supporter but Lindsey has more sense. Wish he'd quit pandering to the extreme Right.

    May 20, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. JoeH

    Anyone who can't see that Obama is the worst president in history is either a flaming racists or plain stupid. Ignorance is no longer an excuse as the facts are in. He'll be voted out of a job in November!

    May 20, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    You see, the Republicans are the muther!@#$ers that caused all this crap to begin with, so Obama came into office and had to do what no other President has ever done since the Great Depression: Obama saved America from the reckless policies started by greedy republicans. The GOP is mad because of this, so their only defense is to go on the offense and attack Obama on EVERYTHING!!!

    May 20, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. lloyd roberts

    Marc Rubio is an amateur. i lived in Miami for 17 years and can tell you that Cuban Republicans down there really have no idea what a true conservative is. They never heard of Goldwater or Buckley, don't even know who Eisenhower was. To them, it's just fashionable to be a republican because Kennedy the Democrat supposedly abandoned them in their only quest in life, get rid of Fidel. Rubio is a punk kid that probably could not name any founding father other than maybe Washington

    May 20, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  17. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    The Republican record is minus one trillion on everything. They don't have a leg to stand on, so they are attacking the very man who rolled up his sleeves, got down to brass tacks, and fought hard to restore hope and prosperity in America.

    May 20, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  18. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    But the Koch brother billionaires and all of the GOP a-r-s-e-h-o-l-e apparatus nearly went blind rom the miraculous way Obama dealt with the cards he was handed. They know deep in their puny, cold stone hearts and their pea sized atrophied brains that Obama should be honored mightily instead of ridiculed, but that would mean the republicans got it wrong and still do.

    May 20, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  19. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    So, Rubio, the little Cuban boy from down the block is just doing what all republicans do – he is just defending a party that has the worst achievement record ever and zero things to brag about, while attacking President Obama, for doing what they will never do: help middle-class America instead of the rich and powerful few, who never create any jobs and steal from the poor.

    May 20, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  20. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Rubio, the little Cuban boy from down the block is just doing what all republicans do – he is just defending a party that has the worst achievement record ever and zero things to brag about, while attacking President Obama, for doing what they will never do: help middle-class America instead of the rich and powerful few, who never create any jobs and steal from the poor.

    May 20, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  21. Derigible

    Make a list of every bad thing the Republicans have done to this country.
    Then blame it on Democrats.
    Wont work this time, people have smartened up.

    May 20, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Rubio, you need to stop sleeping with your mother and sister and shut up and. You’re just a little uneducated school boy who learned how to part his hair neatly but one whose brain never fully developed since birth.

    May 20, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. mms55

    what a joke lmao.anyone with a brain knows whose being divisive,its the gop.obama's not the one dividing us or destroying us its them.they have done nothing for us in 4yrs.

    May 20, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. stone

    If anyone takes these flag waving cross carrying war mongering Republicans serious, by serious I mean that they actually want what is best for America. I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

    May 20, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. Derigible

    *** sithlord1

    Obama has raised 115,000,000. Why doesn't he spread the wealth with that? He could give that money back to the 100,000,000 poor and lower class americans and they would pay off their debt and spend money to boom the economy.

    So could Romney, Gingrich, Palin, Perry, Santorum.......

    May 20, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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