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. craig

    "... it is hard to understate how much he inspired people across this country four years ago."

    No, it's not. Look at McCain, and look at Romney. A small, under-sized goldfish provides more inspiration. McCain was doing okay until he selected Sarah...and then everyone began questioning his...sanity. Romney will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, and then lie about it tomorrow. Remember, he was for Detroit...until he was against Detroit. He said any President would have gone after bin Laden, after he said he wouldn't. He was for Health Care, and even signed health care into Mass law...until he was against Health Care.

    You wonder why the President inspires us? Just look at the "inspiration" from your own party and it's pretty clear where we find inspiration. HINT: It ain't coming from the GOP...unless you count the inspiration to make certain people don't vote to support the War against Women.

    May 20, 2012 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  2. Beth

    The minute the election results were in the Republican leadership said their number one job was to make sure Barack Obama was a one term president. Every thing they have said or done since has been to make that happen. It take some gall to say he has been divisive.

    May 20, 2012 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  3. mirrorlogic

    Republic hatred continues. They block everything, hate diversity and love wealth of the dollar above all else - why else does Romney keep so many off-shore accounts? Conservatives have been on the wrong side of history on so many issues...hatred has also been on the wrong side of history - yet watch how they try to stir it over and over. Do not vote for them.

    May 20, 2012 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
  4. RS, CA

    How true! Every time I see Obama's face or hear his voice, off goes the TV! In my long and proud life as an American, II have rarely - if ever - witnessed a so-called president display such shoddy, mean, and ugly behavior towards citizens of this great country. Where did this man come from? He should be ashamed of himself! I know I am ashamed of him!

    May 20, 2012 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  5. Tony

    Rubio, as are most Republikans, is an elitist and a racist, plain and simple.

    And BTW, Bush got us into this ditch the President is trying to get us out.

    May 20, 2012 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  6. Anthony

    What an empty soul with very short memory. Marco Rubio is a complete joke.

    May 20, 2012 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  7. Cigar Smoker

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Rubio is the latin reincarnation or Reagan! He will lead the GOP to ethnic victory in 2012. Just don't talk about his American Express card...

    May 20, 2012 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  8. guesswho22

    He's from Florida, folks. All your leading nutjobs, criminals, racists, and murders come from there... Rubio, go back to Cuba you facist

    May 20, 2012 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  9. cesar

    This guy is an idiot yet its the people who vote for these loons that are the bigger idiots. How is Romney a good business man I ask? This is a guy that made his fortune taking over bankrupt companies and runing them to the ground the selling whatever was left of them for a cheap profit so he and a bunch of empty suits could collect a quick and easy buck. Yet the idiot brigade considers him a great business man including this Rubio clown.

    May 20, 2012 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  10. guesswho22

    He's from Florida, folks. All your leading nutjobs, criminals, bigots, facists, and murders come from there...

    May 20, 2012 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  11. sbssue1

    I have to agree. Nice guy, but not the makings of a good leader. Rubio is correct and bold enough to state it.

    May 20, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  12. Republican who calls for American Unity

    Can we get past the name calling and look for solutions now? The GOP has de-evolved to a bunch of whinning crybabies. This speech is a grat example. The folks we want to be in office should be leaders not immature kindergardeners.

    I will keep this in mind in the voting booth.

    May 20, 2012 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  13. Republican who calls for American Unity

    What a farce the GOP has become.

    May 20, 2012 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  14. Please Grow Up

    Vice President Rubio might want to tone down a bit.

    May 20, 2012 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  15. Orwell seen it before

    Rubio's Rubish, a crap act. Screw your homeland, Republistan.

    Republicans are dead enders; proven by the lack of interest or understanding of the nuclear proliferation strategy. You got nothing to offer the world besides fear and ignorance.

    Go home, it is not the USA. Call your inbred fathers, Senator Joe McCarthy and President Richard Nixon; they have your passports.

    May 20, 2012 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  16. Common sense!

    Go get them!!

    May 20, 2012 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  17. macrasta

    be careful Rubio, all your skeletons might just jump out the closet despite you trying to be a VP candidate..

    May 20, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  18. Bob Ramos

    In the Hispanic community, we refer to people like Rubio as a cocunut (white on the inside and brown on the outside).

    Rubio ignores certain facts. While the Democrats do control the Presidency and have a slight majority in the Senate, whatever the Democrats propose is, with occasional bills excepted, DOA in the House and vice versa. Early on, in Obama's term, Repub leaders such as Rush, McConnel, Boehner pledged to work to insure that Obama's policies would fail regardless of their merits. Thus, the failure to do anything effective after Obama's early successes.

    May 20, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  19. macrasta

    I meant..."despite you NOT trying to be a VP candidate

    May 20, 2012 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  20. bear

    Funny how his parents went from refugees to immigrants another Joe Wilson "you lie",

    May 20, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  21. Chuckwagonxx

    Boobio has to show the Mittens camp he is worthy of the VEEP spot, and that he can deliver FL and a significant portion of the Hispanic vote. He has to also show them he can criticize with the best of Mittens, without really divulging their true mission, which is to eradicate the middle class and every program that goes with it. The mantra is, criticize, but don't really tell them how we would address the problems, because we really don't have any answers, and we don't want to be criticized. One thing for sure:If we do get in, whatever program we want, Boehner will approve, including raising the debt limit!

    May 20, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |

    Not ready for primetime like Mitt McCain. Obama/Biden 2012!

    May 20, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  23. Jebbb

    Run a dishonest divisive class-warfare racist smear campaign, and then accuse your opponent of doing it. Nice touch, Republican.

    May 20, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  24. Diane

    Uncle Juan.A Cuban Herman Cain.

    May 20, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  25. julesT

    Rubio is clearly on the defensive,since our president is doing everything that WE the people elected him to do; otherwise Rubio, instead of tearing our president down, would be spending his energy buildig up the potential GOP nominee, Romney. But then when one has nothing to offer this is what one does......sad, very sad.

    May 20, 2012 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
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