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. AKsteve

    Who is divisive? Let's see here.
    Record number of filibusters in the Senate? Republicans.
    Record number of blocked cabinet members? Republics.
    Refusal to compromise unless they get everything they want (which obviously isn't compromise at all)? Republicans.

    The block things, prevent things, stop things, refuse things, cry about things and then have the nerve to blame it on someone else? REPUBLICANS.

    May 19, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. MaryM

    Rubio, Everyone remembers the Blunt/Rubio amendment. And what is divisive is the republican party and what they are trying to do in the states. Republicans have already lost the majority of the women voters, hispanic voters and of course the black voters. Americans will not forget the teapublicans in the HOUSE saying ":Let America default on its debts". THAT is the republican party now.

    May 19, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  3. Teena

    This from a leader of the party that dedicated itself to making the term of this president impossible- I remember when the members of the republican party saying they would vote no on nothing this president wanted! o, maybe if Rubio looked in the mirror he would see the definition of divisive

    May 19, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  4. Spot On

    Well, what did you expect from a Rep mob hit man for South Carolina? Anyone really expect him to say he loves Blacks, has several Black friends, and thinks the President is doing a great job? Not in this lifetime.

    May 19, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. independent

    Attack dog Rubio turns into rabid attack dog Rubio.

    May 19, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. Michael

    Rubio is just posturing up and trying to sell himself to Mitt Romney as the VP choice. He's basically going into attack dog mode. I don't think it's difficult to get people in certain places in SC not to like Obama. The problem is that this type of message only appeals to people that were never going to vote for President Obama in the first place. The Republican message in and of itself doesn't appeal to main stream Americans and without some sort of fear tactic Republicans tend to lose elections. Romney's message has already been highjacked by the Tea Party and Neo cons. The same people he has to sell his soul to get support from will undoubtedly cost him the election in November.

    May 19, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  7. blake

    Rubio is absolutely correct. Divisive. Destructive. Add to that: Marxist, fiscally irresponsible, anti-American, anti-family, anti-life, and the list goes on.

    May 19, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  8. Washington A. Oatmeal

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

    May 19, 2012 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  9. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    Why? Because he is waking the masses up to the fact that the rich are lording it over the masses! Which means that the Republcans are afraid that people will listen and decide to make a decision on backing the only Party for the middle class and poor. What he doesn't get is that we are well aware of it. The rich have been hording money for the last three years and not reinvesting in America. The Republicans are blocking the President from raising taxes and fining the Companies that are outsorcing their employees and their company to foreign lands and holding their money in foreign lands to keep from paying taxes they owe to the American people!

    May 19, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  10. Jerubbaal

    Did he ever repay those illgotten campaign donations?

    May 19, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  11. Holla

    Making speech to generate revenue. What an excellence way of raising revenue. More such attack would bring more unprecedent amount of revenue. Imbecile Rubo go on and on!

    May 19, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. Mike

    This is funny. A tea partier referring to President Obama as divisive. Tea partiers go to Washington with an agenda of obstruction and of refusal to compromise and he calls President Obama divisive. How about we refer to the GOP and the tea party as unpatriotic. How does that sit with them?

    May 19, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  13. loops08

    When Biden is billigerent and partisan he is described as being "passionate," but when it's Rubio it is harsh. This is CNNs and the Democrats attempt to marginalize Rubio. The Democrats are the perveyors of microaggressions. CNN never describes Obama or Biden as being harsh. This is part of CNNs and fanboy Hamby's narrative to support the Democrats this election. However, I don't think it will work this election becuase Obama has a record and the cheerleading is so apparent.

    May 19, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  14. JD in Moraga, CA

    Originally billed as the New Face of the GOP he now shows that he's just the next generation corporate shill.

    May 19, 2012 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  15. Reuben

    GOP howls indicate that Obama's message is resonating with the American people, and that the RepubliCons are on the defensive.

    May 19, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  16. MrManhattan

    Someone should check his birth certificate.

    May 19, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  17. Sirned

    Rubio is just another in the long list of elite bullies coming out of the Tea Party....Not too bright thugs protecting their billionaires...

    May 19, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  18. TM

    Divisive? For wanting to hold those responsible for nearly bankrupting our economy four years ago? Rubio needs to look at his own party first. How many times did he join with his party to oppose ANY attempt at compromise? Republicans LOST four years ago, and then proceeded to REFUSE to discuss ANY legislation that did not follow their values. They used filibuster and obstruction to hold the country hostage. And despite all that the President has still managed to improve the lives of everyone in the country, not just the fortunate few. It is not the President who is divisive. It is the Republicans and their trained howler monkeys in the Tea Party that have divided us.

    May 19, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  19. Ed Zepp

    Typical hypocrite you expect to be a "conservative warrior" of the GOP. Your party incessantly rips into anything Obama says or does for 4 years. And when he dares to stand up to your B.S. you call him "destructive and divisive." What a jerk.

    May 19, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  20. NotFooledByDistractions

    "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."

    Riiiiight Marco. And talk like that is certainly a constructive way to improve the situation.

    What a clown.

    May 19, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  21. buck cameron

    Yep, the Republicans are diverse. they have millionaires, and billionaires. They have brunettes and blonds and rubios (oh, that means blond in Spanish doesn't it)

    May 19, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Democrat bad. Republican good. Woof.

    May 19, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  23. Benji

    He is a liar. The GOP has been the most divisive and obstructionist all because they want to see this black man fail. The GOP does not care about America. I'm voting for OBAMA AGAIN in November.

    May 19, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  24. Steven Colo

    So the nutcase GOP right-wingers who refuse to compromise and are cannibalizing their own party – they claim that Obama is divisive. Heck, the Republicans couldn't even play nice to each other during the primary.

    May 19, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  25. IDEAS and IDEALS not ideologies

    Do these guys really believe the things they say or is it that they are so rotten on the inside to the point they think that their "political enemies" are just like them. Or maybe it's the way they work on the emotions of the fanatics to raise money.

    May 19, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
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