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. Steven Colo

    Comparing Rubio to Reagan? Based on what? Their last names both beginning with R? It can't be their hair color because Reagan dyed his hair.

    May 19, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  2. Will

    Rubio is a clown, the ONLY problem is – that he is the only one that doesn't know it!

    May 19, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  3. Little Tin God

    I think Rubio and company should look in a mirror to see who the divisive ones in this country really are.

    May 19, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  4. Lone wolf

    Amazing how Rubio can't tell the truth. Everyone in their right mind knows that it is the right that started this so called class warfare and divisiveness in our country. It is the right that got us involved in 2 costly wars. It is the right that almost decked our economy. The right does not like the truth, so now they are trying to re-write history to fit their hate driven agenda. The right is using this lap dog to try to drum up support from the Hispanic population, but is is not going to work. Rubio and most Cubans don't identify with the Hispanic population. They see themselves as white and as Cubans only here because of Castro. Remember the incident with the little Cuban boy they did not want to unite with his father in Cuba, and what flag the Cuban Americans were flying during the protest! It was not Stars and Stripes, it was the Cuban flag!

    May 20, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  5. Drguajar

    By speaking of the president so harshly, Rubio is doing what he falsely accuses the president of-dividing the country by being so partisan. He needs to look in the mirror and see himself for the political hack that he is.

    May 20, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. Bev

    Vice President wannabe. What one will do for a position and yet we criticize the one occupying the office we want.
    HA, HA, HA! yawn!

    May 20, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  7. ArtInChicago

    Good grief.

    May 20, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  8. timothy

    Who did the Birther insanity? Who didn't tell them they were crazy? Who's still enabling the lunacy 4 years later? Who's dividing the country? I'd say Republicans.

    May 20, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  9. 1twinsfan

    The GOP is diverse? Doesn't Rubio realize he's one a mere handful of Hispanic Republicans? And a Cuban American isn't exactly going to go over well with all Hispanic Americans. They might, just might have some shared languages, English and Spanish, but the cultures are completely different.

    May 20, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  10. GetEd

    These Republicans truly have no shame, doing one thing and then repeating over and over that the others are doing it. What disgusting people...

    May 20, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  11. candy

    " know it’s coming from his heart..." - Isn't that scary? It's one thing to sing the Party jingles and repeat canned talking points; it's another to actually believe in heart those garbage – “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.”. It isn't the Obama camp who've done all those things; it's the GOPs, in particular Tea Partiers like Rubio himself.

    May 20, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  12. David Douglas

    Wow, what a deal, you know, this guy is better at spinning things, than Mitt is. I sure would never vote for a lier no matter what party he is from. And this GOPer will never vote for Rubio.

    May 20, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  13. Karma6338

    Blah, blah, does not take much to criticize anyone....but it takes a lot of intelligence and vision to promote a better plan. Rubio is nothing but mouth, just like Romney...unless they develop a campaign about ideas they are toast. Obama inspired people because he had a plan and a it or not, he had ideas.

    May 20, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  14. Larry L

    This is straight out of Karl Rove's playbook. Divisive? How about a Republican Congress that blocks the initiatives they created themselves? How about a population of radicals who stay tuned to the evil lies of Fox news then rush to repeat the sound bites and conspiracies? How about a GOP that listened to Ted Nugent threaten the President and try to rally citizens to violence against each other? How about the "birthers", the "death squads", and the racial signs at the Tea Party rallys? How about the conservatives that insult the President's religion and his family – even stooping to call him a "socialist" when he works to compromise with the Republican Party's radicals. Rubio has been bought and paid for and few Hispanic Americans have any use for his shallow rhetoric.

    May 20, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  15. 0rangeW3dge

    We've all heard the "divisive" schtick for a while now (seems like an eternity), but now they have to step it up to "destructive"??? What's next? "Obama" is the anti-Christ?, oh wait, they already used that one... Plague? Locusts?

    May 20, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  16. tone7de

    Rubio...yell nonsense loud enough and they may forget you are hispanic.

    May 20, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  17. dreucalypt

    This is silly. President Obama is a divisive figure because the Republicans hate on him. But in fact his policies are mostly theirs. They hate him because they just can't stand not having all the power, not because he's a wild-eyed ideologue.

    May 20, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  18. gar

    Obama has bent over backwards to be bipartisan and accomodating to the Republicans. He was elected on the hope the he would be able to unify the country. Since that is one of his greatest strenghts, the Republicans have to attack him as divisive. Their shallow propaganda is appears just that, partisan name-calling.

    May 20, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  19. Rick

    More vile attacks from the party of hate.

    May 20, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  20. michael in houston

    Go find your mommie little boy.

    May 20, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  21. Donkey Party

    Lying little Romney lapdog. When is the lamestream media going to call out Rubio and the lying GOP for trying to portray the President as something he isn't? The entire GOP should be rounded up and shot for treason for being the domestic terrorists they are.

    May 20, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  22. pink hase

    Rubio, little boy, go home and take your toys with you. Maybe sara or michelle will play with you. BUT leave the country to those who care and are trying to fix this mess you, your republicans cohorts and of course BUSH put us into.

    May 20, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  23. Dennis

    Who cares what this conservative maricon thinks?

    May 20, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  24. hemmy22

    Sen. Rubio is spot on. Our president is dividing this great nation by both race and class. He comes across like he enjoys it as well. He should go down as the worst president of all-time. The complete opposite of Lincoln.

    May 20, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  25. Angel

    "We were in desperate need of a DNA change", is obviously code for if we want to win, we need to recruit minority candidates for the sole purpose of attracting the minority vote.

    May 20, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
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