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. U.N. Owen

    Four horsemen of the Apocalypse – Scott, Rubio, West, and Mack. Florida is definitely making its contribution to the religious history of the West.

    May 20, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. Vanka

    Isn't it extremely divisive to accuse someone else of being divisive, especially with no facts to back it up!?

    I am still waiting for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, and spokespersons like Rubio, to offer positive, affirmative solutions and good ideas rather than spewing this "anyone but Obama" rhetoric that is as empty as their party code of ethics appears to be!

    May 20, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Loop

    Ted van Tol from the Netherlands. Stay out of our Politics. Stick with your Liberal buddies there in Holland. Boere Lul.

    May 20, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. tony

    The most honest word I have come up to describe the Republicans after the last 11 years is "subversive". In any other country, they'd be described as the "enemy".

    May 20, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. LAinSA

    He's just another talking coconut. What's new?

    May 20, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Gimmeabreak!

    Obama is outa here! We all know it!

    Restore honor and dignity to the presidency –Vote Romney 2012!

    May 20, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  7. Bill

    Rubio is a joke. South Carolina is a good fit for him.

    May 20, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. T'sah From Virginia

    ►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.◄

    MY OP-ED and I am Somebody!!

    Actually, and I know that the American people are not stupid, the country was ALWAYS split – it just was not on the surface as it is now – People hid in their homes and spewed all of the hate this country always had and silently passed laws to back it up and that further divided this country. The war on women, gays, blacks, Hispanics, poor and less fortunate is REAL brought to you by the far-RIGHT that will continue to carry their holsters and refuse to blend!

    All of the “division” in America has now SURFACED only since President Obama took office. America was always DIVIDED but now it’s all “in your face.” We cannot blame President Obama for this – but we can blame those who feel that a Black man cannot solve the problems of America or the world; he does not deserve credit for anything he has done or want to do – we can blame those who from day one wanted to destroy Obama and we can blame those from the Right who now want to try and do a complete 180 degrees and FLIP IT to make it appear that it is President Obama who divided this country – PLEASE WAKE UP!!

    President Obama ran because of “The Fierce Urgency of NOW!!!” Now I truly believe exactly what that means – in order for us to continue as ONE NATION where ALL are EQUAL, we must first stop being so DIVIDED!!! And we need to Stop blaming President Obama for the Division of America!!!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!!!!

    May 20, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. r.u.creus

    He's awfully arrogant AND ignorant to level such accusations. He needs to go back to History class. Has he forgotten who was president before and during the Civil War?

    Oh wait, I forgot. He's in Florida. The state that just lowers its passing standards when kids don't learn anything in school.

    May 20, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. jb1963

    Talk about divisive. He rails on the president because he wants every one to do well yet all Rubio stands for is the rich.

    May 20, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Reggie from LA

    So if people have become more hateful because President Obama was elected, that's his fault? Should he have sat out the election because he suspected that it would make people nastier? Is that what makes him divisive? Marco Rubio has become RMoney's pit bull. He can get away with a bunch of nonsense and maybe somewhere along the line, pick up a spot on team RMoney. Maybe he should have lost a lot more pages of this speech too. Oh!! A lot of you may not be aware of his "missing page" speech a few weeks back and completely lost his way. I wonder who took it. Rubio is an experiment. Nothing more.

    May 20, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. mdn

    South Carolinians voted for the Newtster in the primaries. That should be enough evidence of their ability to pick a credible conservative. It is no surprise that they enjoy raw meat.

    May 20, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. Tom

    Interesting. Obama can't run on his record?? Oh, okay, how about the Auto Industry still alive in Detriot, how about we didn't plunge into a full depression due to very needed spending, oh yeah, he made it a PRIORITY to kill OBL. Yeah, okay Rubio, keep up your nonsense America is listening and you won't like the results in November.
    OBAMA 2012

    May 20, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. mego98125

    THIS from the 'man/boy' that has done nothing but LIE about his life, his background and what he stands for. Obama divisive? Uh huh. Rubio and his ilk do nothing but LIE and diseminate about their 'policies' and hope you are so stupid or partisan that you won't FACT CHECK THEM.

    May 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. zulu

    Mr Rubio calls the President divisive when the republican plan from day one was to oppose him, I'm I missing something here?

    May 20, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  16. Anonymous

    “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."

    No doubt Rubio includes himself and Mitt Romney in his little temper tantrum of factless absurdity?

    May 20, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Hoosier2012

    "Washington A. Oatmeal:

    "Best dem is FDR. Obama quite the worst. Rubio, Luther King the Second, the white kind."

    Are you kidding me....why stop there, how about label Rubio as Jesus the second. My vote is decided and you cannot convince me. If you worship Rubio so much, move to Miami.

    May 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. Chipster

    The bottom line is this: the VOTERS decided to elect this President and then promptly voted for a radical Congress that refuses to vote for a single piece of legislation the President supports – even if THEY proposed it ! So, this is not to Republicans. This is not to Democrats. This is directed at VOTERS. You get what you vote for. You voted for gridlock and that is what we have. That is what is blocking any progress. Don't just think about the Presidential election. Think about the Senate and House. Vote in every election, not just for the President you want and not just every 4 years! Vote in every election for people who will work together, who are adult enough to know how to reach consensus.

    May 20, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. gg

    if yuo make money in america it should stay in america-any thing else is stealing from the tax payers

    May 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Larry L

    I laugh when thinking about Rubio's "oops moment" delivering a speech and couldn't find the last page. He was reading the speech like a Jr. High kid giving a book report and when he reached the missing page he was totally lost. He didn't know the subject well enough to continue until somebody found the missing page. This is the same moron who previously criticized President Obama for using a tele-prompter. Oops! Another Republican clown for the clown car.

    May 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    Bain capital is stupid, yes, obama2012.

    May 20, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. RS, CA

    I look forward to the day (soon, very soon to be!) when the man or woman in the White House acts presidential. I am SOOOO sick of the narcissist/s currently living there at our expense.

    May 20, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Duke One

    Maro Rubio is spot on !! Call Obama out on his do nothing Presidency and for being the most divisive President ever.

    May 20, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  24. Sal

    I think that the republican party may just be cutting their own throats.......

    May 20, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. Des Moiner

    Oh look, junior has an opinion. Why is anyone listening to this poor excuse for a statesman? And why is the rest of this country so afraid of "the cuban-amerikan" vote? We should have normalized relations with Castro EONS ago, but we can't because of the knuckleheads (like Rubic's Cube) in South Miami (which, btw, is a real armpit if you've ever visited).

    May 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
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