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. 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 dweebs (like Rubic's Cube) in South Miami (which, btw, is a real pit if you've ever visited).

    May 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. Frank Cardenas

    Rubio is only saying what the GOP & Tea Party nutz want to hear. He has done nothing himself to make life better for the middle-class and the working-class, only the VERY RICH. Rubio is just a another lame GOP politician that "rubber-stamps" the GOP's stand to end President Obama's presidency, even if it means destroying the lives of middle-class and working-class people He is NO RONALD REAGAN, he is more like the CHIMP!

    May 20, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. Indy

    The biggest policy disagreement between Obama and Republicans is very clear with Republicans wanting war and less taxes for the upper class and trickle down economics with a huge advantage to the rich.Obama wants equal opportunities for everyone, and for everyone to pay their fair share.Republicans want the middle class to shine their shoes and serve them food,Obama wants the middle class to fullfill their American dream and have a shot at sucess. Obama wants some rules and regulations to protect everyone and Republicans want no rules and anything go's as long as it favors the rich. The differences are quite simple with Republicans wanting what is good for the wealthy and Obama wanting what is good for all Americans

    May 20, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. COL

    Hey Loop, is Fruit Loop or Loopy your real name? So out of the overwhelming liberal response to this article, you attack a foreign poster? How "ugly American" of you. Considering the impact of the U.S. on world affairs (including the consumption of others' natural resources), we foreigners (I'm Canadian) will have our say any way we can, since we can't vote.

    We know this upsets the xenophobes and imperialists in your country but we respect and even love the U.S. because of the progressive half (I'd bet the majority) of your people, who probably still comprise the best bet for the future of civilization.

    Deal with it, regressive.

    May 20, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  5. kyconserv

    not a one of you made any sense.typical liberal propaganda.obama is slipping fast and now his little basement yuppies are flooding the net trying to save him.lets save this country and put values back into our lives and get rid of the moochers and reward the hard working people of this country not the couch romney for real reform

    May 20, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |

    Yawn. More of the unhinged GOBP. Keep giving them microphones. The Anybody but Mitt McCain primaries were fun,watching them self destruct.

    May 20, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  7. pamglegoodenough

    The party of BUSH continues the extreme rightwing agenda that brought the USA to its collective knees. Rubio wants to distract voters from the true villains in politics today.

    The "Republican" Tea Party is packed with greedy, ignorant cowards. The "Republican" Tea Party wants to take us into the dark ages. They represent haightred and fear. Avoid anything with a "Republican" sticker.

    May 20, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Anonymous

    "The state’s other senator, Lindsey Graham, earlier compared Rubio to Ronald Reagan."

    And he said this with a straight face? Yuck.

    May 20, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. The Bible is a book of badly written fairy tales

    Wow. The dysfunctional GOP calling Obama "divisive". This is the party that has fought common sense at every turn in the last 3.5 years, but yet somehow wants to be taken as a serious political party. It turns out that the GOP is just like Romney: they will say and/or do ANYTHING to get back into power and destroy America.

    May 20, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. kyconserv

    look at california.broke and spending everyone elses money.if thats what you want vote obama.lets take the whole country there

    May 20, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. yogi

    How easy it is to make yourself bigger by cutting off someone's head. Rubio should be an apprentice in the Obama administration to learn how to go forward in a constructive way, with ideas and....intelligence. He definitely is not a statesman, as few in the GOP are. We leave that and many more positive qualities to the President.
    Obama 2012!

    May 20, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Sue

    It is a shame that even Rubio has slipped into pandering to the racists in the Republiklan party. Why has it become accaptable to spew such hate? Incredible.

    May 20, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    "look at california.broke and spending everyone elses money.if thats what you want vote obama.lets take the whole country there"

    Looks as if Arnold didn't leave California anymore economically sound than GW left America ... indeed, than did GW leave the world economically sound.

    As those sound fiscal policies that Republicans throw at us when in power usually take years to dig out of ... GWs mess was of monumental destruction ... and left not only America, but the world in chaos.

    Not sure it's in the best interest for America, or the world, to give Republicans a do over when we haven't completed digging out of the last Republican "do over" of 2010, which in itself hasn't exactly added much of anything economically to our country.

    May 20, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Richmond GOP Hater

    kyconserv – You're state was run into the ground under Ahh Nold. What does that have to do with Obama?

    May 20, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. yogi

    @ loop.
    Calling (Dutch) names to a sincere post doesn't make you look very civilized, but what's new with our republican friends?

    May 20, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. W.G.

    How stupid do they think the American people are ? They are the ones trying to constantly divide this country .
    They´re LYING to us saying they won´t raise taxes but if the present buget busting defence bill the republicans
    want to pass even though the experts ( Defence Dept .) say they do not need these things then every American
    (except the top1%) will pay an extra $150.00 a year in taxes . the republicans are flat out liars !

    May 20, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. justaminit

    Another Tea Party inspired distorter of facts. Any spin that the Republican Party has tried to cooperate or negotiate in good faith is undermined by the mantra of "defeating Obama at any cost". Humble little Cuban boy or shill for the monied interests which are attempting to buy this country? Devisive is your middle name Rubio.

    May 20, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Mike's Tiki Bar

    The Republican party's leadership's publicly stated goal at the outset of this president's first term was to make sure he wasn't reelected. And now this tea party lapdog is accusing him of being divisive. Speaking as a Floridian, Rubio is an embarrassment.

    May 20, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Myron Pitts

    This "harsh attack" is simply the politically designated way to audition for vice president, who will be the politically designated attack dog for the general election campaign. Just like Biden is launching the "harsh attacks" on Romney. I actually love to follow politics, but even I'm getting sick of the show. Every American with a brain who is willing to look at the nation's problems objectively realizes that some consensus must be reached on at least some issues - the budget, health care, size of military, etc. It's disappointing that for most in Washington this is still only a game about winning and losing and not about helping the country.

    May 20, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. Dave from Florida

    Now that's the pot calling the kettle black!!! Obama has been divisive??!? Remove Rubio's Cuban-American immigrant and personal references, replace 'Obama' with 'Tea Party' and that speech would work just as well at a Democratic fund raiser!!

    May 20, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. A not-so-stupid former republican

    Rubio is just another disingenious republican politician who is spreading hate and discontent. He has lied about his past and like other tea party nuts has no clue and no plan. Pretty boy should just sit down, shut up, and let the grown ups handle the election.

    May 20, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. UrAverageJoe

    Yeah, Obama's the one being divisive. Because for Rubio, working together and not being divisive means doing EVERYTHING the Republicans want and not asking for anything in return. For Rubio it's not divisive top question his patriotism, to question his faith, to call him a Socialist, A Nazi, a communist, a murderer. THAT's not divisive. That's just good old fashioned compassionate conservatism.

    May 20, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. B.

    What a bunch of Non-sense! The divisiveness is the Tea-party’s mantra and will cost the Republicans the election in the Fall. No-one is buying in to the rhetoric coming from these extremists.

    The Republican party has been taken-over buy these idiots and after it is over and they lose,they will have to re-invent themselves all over again as they have become- irrelevant as a serious political party. Holding the Congress hostage to get what they want on everything is absurd and will not fly.

    May 20, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Larry L

    @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."
    The term "narcissist" must be one of Fox New's current talking points. Most Americans see our President as a very well-educated, extremely articulate, mature and thoughtful leader. He consistently reaches out to Republicans to find common ground – only to be rejected by those fearful of Tea Party wrath for showing willingness to compromise. You need to filter-out some of the talking points because they are truly ridiculous. Don't confuse confidence and capability with narcissism. The "Decider" who declared "Mission Accomplished" wasn't even a narcissist – just a fool.

    May 20, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. ted

    so what. he was talking to GOP party members who all hate Obama anyway. So what, Rubio is a gasbag. I guess you forgot that Bush's policies of two very expensive and dumb wars really drove up the deficit. Obama has not started any wars. Bush gave tax cuts to the whiny millionaires and that has addede to the deficit. Obama should take away the Bush tax cuts since the GOP job creators are not creating jobs.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 20, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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