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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Follow Peter Hamby on Twitter: @PeterHambyCNN

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. michaelam

    "look at california.broke and spending everyone elses money.if thats what you want vote obama.lets take the whole country there"
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________Like most of the people that occupy your party, you're not too bright! PART of Ca's issues has to do with the FACT that we don't get to keep all of our tax dollars in OUR state. No, we get to pay for your undereducated state and other states, those south of the Mason-Dixon line and especially, $arah Pailin's Alaska. Keep in mind, WE are still the eighth largest economy IN THE WORLD! Unfortunately, we have to pay for ignorant fools such as yourself. Turn off Fox and educate yourself!

    May 20, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. CA

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

    Jerry Brown and the liberal policies have ballooned the already ridiculous deficit of 9.2 billion to 15.7 billion in 4 months. As much as you want to blame the poor policies of the previous administration, CA issues were expanded on by making liberal policies more liberal.

    Your comparison to G. W is apt. Governor Brown took over a state that was in bad shape due to running out all of the businesses in the state because of terrible tax policy and has made it so much worse. President Obama has took over an inexcusable 400 Billion dollar deficit from W and has made it so much worse.

    May 20, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Ntrain2k

    At times, the truth hurts.

    May 20, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. kyconserv

    richmond,obamas policies mirror and spend.and arnold didnt have a chance with all the liberals in the states gov.they continue to elect gop govs just to blame them instead of the states liberal elites who are running it into the we are about to give my tax money to this badly run state to bail it out of its spending problem.the solution they come up with?"raise taxes"good then maybe the jobs they lose will come here for the people who need them

    May 20, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. mishnu

    Why do people elect all of these political activists who are so adept at using reverse psycology...a lie becomes the truth, good becomes bad and vice versa....When President Obama was elected, gridlock became the name of the game...they created this problem with the intent to lable his term as "failed leadership" which has become their mantra local, state and national politics.

    There are so many politicians today who are referring to themselves as "first-generation" Americans of immigrant descent who are making somewhat strong impact on the politics of this country....I am not understanding this at all.

    May 20, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. MaryM

    @michaelam, thank you. could not have said it better myself. I might also add CA had a Repub governator that spent like a ******** when he was in office and now it is left to Gov Brown (Dem) to clean up his mess.

    May 20, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. gg

    michaelam well said

    May 20, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |

    America responds more to Pres. Obama than the destructive, divisive, obstructionist Republicans!!! ~We will re-elect Pres. Obama again this year! Because, HE GETS THE AMERICA PEOPLE!!!

    May 20, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. mishnu

    Who gives a hoot about what Rubio says?

    May 20, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. HOWIE76

    This guy has done more damage to the state of Florida. He will go the way of JOhn Edwards, too arrogant not to eventually get caught.

    May 20, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |

    Rubio, FALL BACK... We are moving FORWARD with PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA!!! 🙂

    May 20, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. charlie

    Yes, it sure is class warfare-the rich, privileged upper class ("haves and have-mores" according to Bush) declared war on the middle class in 2000 and won't be satisfied until the 1 percent have 99 percent and the 99 percent have only 1 percent. The middle class haven't declared war on the upper class, we're just defending ourselves. The amusing thing is that when the rich finally do succeed in taking everything they can from us the whole system will collapse around them and what they have taken from the middle class and poor will be taken from them by force, in a perverse way I'm actually looking forward to the day that happens.

    May 20, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Bob

    Hard to 'understate'? Maybe he means 'overstate?

    As far as the rest of what he says goes, anything that he disagrees with is 'divisive'. When has he talked of bringing people together by compromising?

    May 20, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. BobInIrvine

    Rubio: Pot calling kettle black.

    May 20, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. bd

    Rubio is a total idiot. He has no understanding of history, and is simply pandering to the extreme right. Perhaps he's never heard of Republican president Richard Nixon? Send Rubio back to Cuba. Novice

    “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.

    May 20, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Sue

    NO WAY Obama wins any states in the South this time!! The swing states of North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin--are all FOR SURE wins for Romney this election!! I would say that--based on an article CNN did about 2 weeks ago, showing that thousands of people registered as Republican in Iowa after Romney won the nomination, making their more registered Republicans then Democrats-–that Romney wins Iowa as well. And, I believe Ohio and Florida will go to Romney also. PA just passed some new voter ID laws--so illegals, dead people, people voting more then once, etc will not be happening in PA-–so Romney has a very good chance of picking up this state also, especially being that it is also a coal producing state.

    May 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Herb

    Was Rubio asleep during GW's terms in office? What a moron.

    May 20, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Brian

    Funny and ironic that he calls Obama one of the most divisive political figures in the modern era. Yet it was McConnell who said on day one that the GOP was going to do everything in their power to make him a one term President. That being said, anybody who actually believes what Rubio says is a moron, plain and simple.

    May 20, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. bd

    It was the Republicans who said their sole job was to make Obama a one-term president, no matter what it takes. Their stance has been to attack and resist him every chance they can. And now they claim Obama is the divisive one - do they really think the American people are that dumb? Or do they have amnesia?

    Rubio is either stupid or dishonest – plain and simple.

    May 20, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. Craig from Pa.

    Rubio must have been asleep from 2000 to 2008...Bush was the greatest divider of all...he was an embarrassment to the United States...the world thought we were ALL like him...

    May 20, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. D.

    Rubio lied about his family history to sway voters.
    Why would he lie about something like that when he knew the story would be checked out.
    Because he believes his own lies.

    May 20, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Tom in San Diego

    I really wish this young man would run....for VP and then onto P....

    May 20, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. ciabella23

    "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,"

    Yet, another item to point out that "Bullying" has stayed with Romney since the early days.....And why do the GOP/Tea Party keep wanting to make it "Class Warfare" -

    The issue is 40 years of failure within "Shareholder Capitalism", which Romney is the symbol or Poster Child for - this has put 25 Million out of work, while increasing the few..

    Failed tax cuts by Bush in 2001, 2003 - The "Job Creators" chose to offshore their money, and lay off, cut salaries, wages..

    This is about the Conservative Group known as the Business Roundtable spending 548 Million to date to lobby for reducing taxes on Capital Gains....

    The GOP/Tea Party has definitely messed up - they laid off way to many of those above the age of 45, 50 who have been out of work, but have the wisdom and intelligence to continue to put out factual statements, and not have to resort to name calling.....maybe Romney should have thought about that while putting all these people out of work for "shareholders Capitalism", instead he has come out and said, don't know what your upset about, I became successful, at lowering people's wages, ruining peoples lives, so that I could become rich.....and I am proud of what I did.......I fired people so that I could put more money in banks outside the U.S. and not have to pay taxes, yes, I will let people die if they do not have health insurance......

    May 20, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. Poul

    Why is it a 'Harsh Attack' when a republican disagrees with a democrat and not when the oppersite happens?

    May 20, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Josh

    Well done Rubio...
    Time to kick Obozo out and back to his community service in Chicago...

    I fail to understand how dumb Dems can be since they can't see this country going to the toilet under Obozo!!!
    Denial of the truth....

    May 20, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16