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. Brownstain

    Y'all vote for the moron

    May 20, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  2. km6xu

    I have just lost all respect for this guy. 🙁

    May 20, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  3. WiredweirdinSF

    Interesting bit of editorializing the headline. The truth is said to be a "harsh" attack on Obama, such is truth in the liberally biased media. There is no such claim when the most incompetent, inept,corrupt, union toady president attacks the people who assume personal responsibilty for their lives, work and pay taxes. We are called greedy, and the Senate Majority Leader has called us "un American" while the former Speaker of the House calls us "astroturf" and drug addicts call us "teabaggers."

    May 20, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  4. Guest

    Obama deserves a harsh attack. He's trying to tell other nations how to fix their economies when he's done nothing to fix ours and has only dug us deeper in debt. We all know he skipped basic math and economics in college and this is why his records are secret.

    May 20, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  5. DAW, NC

    Amazing, calling Obama devisive, if I remember right the republicans made statements when he was elected that they were going to do everything they could to limit his effectiveness, they are the ones who are against womens healthcare, they are the one's who have filibustered everything he has attempted. what an angry group of people.

    May 20, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  6. Jack in Florida

    The most divisive” and “destructive” political force in this country today, are the party of NO republicans and the tea baggers. Their divisiveness comes from the fact that they are racists, pure and simple, and will do anything not to have the first "black" president succeed. They may have had the fear mongering and war mongering down with Bush, but the American people have opened their eyes and see the republicans for who and what they stand for......."white" Americans with lots of money!! COME ON PEOPLE, WAKE UP AND DON'T RETURN TO THE ERA OF THE BUSH YEARS!!!

    May 20, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  7. Pappy

    One more TPGOPer calling the kettle black. The reason the Libs are not enthused this time around with President Obama is because he campaigned as a Progressive and bent over backwards to work with a far right Congress.

    Compare his lowly approval ratings with the abysmal rating for Congress and you'll find your winner come November.
    I'm sticking with the adult in the room Divisive ? Really ?

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 20, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  8. Jim in Georgia

    Divisive? Destructive? For a second there I thought he was talking about George W. Bush... There are places in this country that that kind of talk plays well. He's in one of them now.

    May 20, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  9. Dilip Samuels

    The evidence is that OBAMA has magnificently dialogies with peoples of the world and is liked by Americans

    The Tea Party boys like Romney , Gingrich, Santorum practice anti-immigrant rhetoric, alienate women, divisive on social issues like abortion and GAY rights

    It's amazing these men act like BOYS –thump their chests, live in the 40s and don;t realize AMERICA has changed

    RUBIO does not know of whence he speaks !!! Go have some TEA with the TEA PARTY boys.

    May 20, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  10. Andrew

    Hey Rubio..i love to hear you pander to your show such class and intelligence accusing POTUS as being divisive and what do you call your fecal diatribe?? It amuses me to see a boorish immigrant like you rant and scream about unity when you so blatantly deny it. Again, you and yours have a real issue with honesty, civility and have stop auditioning for higher are and never will be qualified.

    May 20, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  11. Walt M

    Please. He's only considered more devisive because Faux "News" and their political attack dogs say he's devisive. In reality the GOP are the one's that are splitting us up. Don't believe me? Then go listen to what the Republican governor stated about divide and conquer.

    May 20, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  12. kkelly

    From the day President Obama took office, the Republicans have said they will do everything they can to make him fail, to make him a one term President.....and Pres. Obama is the devisive figure of America???!!! So McConnell and Rubio & Company just point the finger at our president and the sheep of Fox news believe it. Unbelievable!

    May 20, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  13. Fair + Balanced

    Rubio seems to have taken a page out of Joseph Goebbels' Nazi propaganda handbook, Accuse the opposition of exactly the tactics your Party has been using. The GOP (Greedy One Percent) has been practicing obstructionism since day one of Obama's Presidency. Mitch "Turtle" McConnell has even stated that their prime objective, from the beginning was to make "Obama a one term President." What a coincidence that one day after Willard Romney says he will not be negative because he does not want anyone "inspecting" his odd belief system, his "chosen one" henchman, Rubio comes up with this vile attack in the style of the most hated regime the world has ever known.

    May 20, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  14. Gurgyl

    This pathetic idiot got to be crazy SOB. Does he thin he is going to be VP? This idiot talks no sense. Florida, just vote this animal out.

    May 20, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  15. John N Florida

    The Republicans have come a long way. From promoting the Birther Movement to extolling an Anchor Baby, From fighting Immigration Reform to promoting an ally of Illegal Immigration. A L-O-N-G WAY!

    May 20, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  16. Gurgyl

    Rich GREED made this division, idiot.....not Obama, if Obama goes, another Obama will be born in democracy. Do you really know democracy, idiot? This idiot does not have any locus standi to say any further.

    May 20, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  17. Voice of Reason

    Doesn't this Republican look gay? I'll bet he hammers Obama despite his own orientation

    May 20, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  18. Blindersoff

    Yeah, the Republican brand is still delusional as usual . . . facing the mirror with deceit and prehistoric conservative ideology that never worked for the masses, only the privileged few got the brass ring. Rubio, the Cuban sell out, is only looking to line his pockets off the bigotry and exaggerated fear, gloom, doom perpetrated by the conservative wing nuts. The republican leadership are good at creating a chaotic situation and coming to it's rescue. They created this mess we are in, set around and sabotage this president every attempt to restore America from their hack. Now the republican leadership is standing at the front of the line pointing their fingers at this president, calling him, what they, themselves are,dividers and failures. Period.

    May 20, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  19. Patrick

    “We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history as we have over the last three and a half years,”

    I guess being different than the average GOP is scary to the GOP. Fear is the most core element of Bias. Exclusion is the most common form of Bullying, both of which teh GOP have shown excellent performance so far in the last four years.

    The GOP claims they want their country back, back from what? Are we all not American's ? Is there something different to being Black in America.

    May 20, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  20. Island Jack

    It is as simple as this, the Republicans want to impose their views and values on the entire nation, the Democrats want everyone to be free to choose what they believe. Oh, but they do want everyone to pay their "fair" share of the taxes. BTW, I am a registered Independent.

    May 20, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  21. Chuk

    If you love him so much then put him on the ticket and watch your ticked get wipped. Rubio is a lying loser. Put him on the ticket let's get his story out.

    May 20, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  22. terry

    If Marco wants a close-up view of an effort to divide the country he need look no further than his reflection in the mirror.

    May 20, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  23. JustSaying2U

    "Rubio broached that topic himself at one point during his speech, calling the GOP “a more diverse party than the Democratic party is.”

    Proof positive that the GOP is so out of touch, it's comical.
    Furthermore, the divisiveness Rubio speaks of was hatched on the day of Pres. Obama's Inauguration. That's when the GOP leadership decided to let the country flounder in the hope of the President failing. When they chose party over country, they started the diisiveness they speak of.

    May 20, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  24. John

    Who cares what this punk says? He embellishes (to be polite) his family's noble exodus from Cuba, not mentioning the timing was such that they never feared or faced Fidel Castro. And he uses (at least, used) government credit cards for personal purchases, only re-paying when it is made public. Sleazy boy, that's what he is.

    As for calling Obama the divisive one, Rubio should wash out his mouth with soap. These days too many citizens, led by bigmouths like Rubio, are ready to divide themselves from the United States of America, and it is not short of bizarre that they blame the one who is NOT making that choice. Pooh on them all.

    May 20, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  25. Jules

    blah, blah, blah – what is you really don't like, young Mr. Rubio, that he passed legislation to make insurance companies do the right thing, that he passed regulations for Wall Street, that he made it illegal to pay women less than men for equal work, that he saved the auto companies, that he halted the downward spiral of the economy and has actually helped it to grow, that unemployment is going down, Bin Laden dead along with a huge number of terrorist leaders? So Romney is going to change all this – no thanks – been there done that under George W. Bush. When the GOP comes up with a better idea, let me know. Meanwhile, I'm with the guy that actually cares about people. Go Mr. President – the one person running at this critical time that actually has experience at being president is President Obama.

    May 20, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
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