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. nru

    There is an old saying about a pot and a kettle

    May 20, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. PAv

    More free Republican advertising about how dumb they are...

    May 20, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio , " The Prince of the Tea Party "

    Another Hawk that avoided militarily service !

    May 20, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Len Smith

    Could this person be specific? Who is he talking about, the Republicans in the Congres of the United States of America?

    May 20, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. Joe B

    All the Romney campaign has is the same hopey changey rhetoric Obama used to get elected 4 yrs. ago.

    May 20, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Richard T.

    I am not sure but is he calling voters fools? Or is he just being foolish?

    May 20, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Alex

    RUBIO =
    Bigotry and
    Insanity about

    May 20, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Larry L


    Good comment! The "red states" tend to forget how much of the federal dole they receive!

    May 20, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Cinchy

    Okay, I'm officially speaking for most people in the United States (who I do not think are too well represented by the posters here). I liked Obama at first, but gradually grew disenchanted. I don't think he's a bad president, but we need to have someone a lot better. There. That's what most Americans are thinking. You're welcome.

    May 20, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. Nancy

    Rubio... yet another "conservative" living his life in utter and abject terror – and desperately trying to convince his friends and neighbors that the apocalypse is nigh! What will it take to open these people's eyes and tune out the politics of fear? I can't understand how they can possibly live their lives so constantly fearful of the: 1) socialist menace, 2) the Islamic menace, 3) the immigrant menace, 4) the feminist menace, 5) minority menace, or 6) the secular menace.

    I mean, seriously? Let's give 'em all some Valium and let 'em chill for a while, then try to talk to them like rational beings in another 4 years, 'cause they are just too scared to listen right now. This is the same tripe that Gingrich pulled with his idiocy during the Clinton years... it didn't help us then and it's not going to help us now!

    May 20, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. wanna bet?

    Doesn't matter whatever ANY Republican says; Obama wil win AGAIN 65 to 35%.

    May 20, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  12. nolimits3333

    Rubio lied about his background.

    He should not be taken seriously.

    May 20, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Dallas

    Marco , you evidently have lost sight of the big picture! If you think for one minute the majority of the American people are going to be fooled by you, Mitt, or your tea nagger minions, you are living in a fool's paradise. Obama 2012!

    May 20, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. Daniel

    You know, I have grown tired of this "conservatism". That branding is such a joke. They are so freakin misconstrued by their own lies tehy actually believe them. Someone earlier said something about "ego"; that is exactly their problem....

    They really "preach" more of a social agenda more than even socialism. They are really there own brand of socialism congruent with idiotic mysticism and antiquated philosophies. They dont recognize scientific truth because those that acutally believe what they say dont actually have the competency to understand science.

    We will be a truly great country once the "Conservative" Ideal is dead. Then and only then...

    May 20, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. S-Hug

    The most divisive figure in the U.S. — the one who destroyed the integrity of our nation — is George W. Bush. It's amazing how these Republicans spin things around with their delusions. Everything that's wrong with our country today began on George W. Bush's watch: the unnecessary and excessive tax cuts for the rich, September 11, the Iraq War, the bank bailouts. Now they want to blame Obama for all that. Republicans are shameless and disgusting.

    May 20, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. Enitan

    What a crock of garbage, from a Tea Party Puppet?
    The Republican Party are the indeed full of hateful, racist, bigot and ignorant baboons that walks around in the great country.

    He sure is jockeying up for a vice president candidate and a bold face liar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Funkymonkey1

    This guy must think Americans are really stupid. Well I think they are a lot smarter than he gives them credit for. They will see right through his out and out lies and twisted truths. He is certainly the poster boy for the GOP. Nothing that comes past his lips has any sense of honesty.

    May 20, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. markiejoe

    I guess Rubio is trying out for that VP spot after all.

    May 20, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. George

    Rubio is “divisive” and “destructive". His views are on the far right fringe of the republican party. What is wrong with working with the democratic party in a bipartisan way to solve our countries problems?. They idea of not working with the other party is just wrong.

    May 20, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. Paulose

    If a historian stated this ... "one the most “divisive” and “destructive” political figures the country has ever seen", I may care to look deeper into this. But not from this guy. I consider our current president a realist, intelligent and pragmatic. Please don't make statements that you are not qualified to do, else it will diminish your legacy.

    May 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Steve

    I was a resident of Florida most of my life until recently. I was also a big fan of Marco Rubio until recently. He is NOT the hero you want him to be. Mr. Rubio is charasmatic, handsome and well spoken.
    I watched as he melded into the political fractionalism and became just another devisive, self righteous politician who will say what serves him best and do what benefits his benefactors.
    Listen and learn.

    May 20, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. Tony in STL

    Obama's policies have done just about Everything to keep this country from falling a republican generated cliff. These bums should never be allowed anywhere near the White House for the unseen future. Still cleaning up the mess they left last time.

    May 20, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. keeth

    What's his family story again?

    May 20, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. Pilgrim1

    Rubio = loud mouth.

    Good to know that someone with so little experience is smarter than the rest of us!! lol

    May 20, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. Ashley

    "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.": It is nice to know that a U.S. Senator does not recall much of American history, you know, figures like Robert E. Lee, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, etc.

    May 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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