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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Follow Peter Hamby on Twitter: @PeterHambyCNN

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. Howard

    The only thing divisive about this President is his unwillingness to quickly say, "Yessuh, massa," to his bigoted Republican House and Republican controlled Senate.

    May 20, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |

    Is this idiot for real?!? It's clear by his outright lies that he's ready to speak the Tea Bagger line of lies without any regret. If anyone is divisive it's him and the rest of the Tea Baggers and their lies. They will and have say anything they want without any regard for the truth. Perhaps more concerning is where is the fourth estate? Where are the true reporters of yesteryear that challenge these wing nuts with the truth. The saddest part of the current divisive tactics of the right wing is the loss of the fourth estate.

    May 20, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  3. Kali

    It is revealing to hear Rubio attack President Obama as being a divisive leader when Rubio's political reputation is based on his being divisive while serving in Florida. Perhaps he should look at his own party to see what it can do to move forward with a positive message so that our country is not held hostage to political brinksmanship for another election cycle.

    May 20, 2012 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  4. Phyllis G Williams

    "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (Exodus 20: 16)

    May 20, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  5. Phyllis G Williams

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (Exodus 20: 16)

    May 20, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  6. J

    Apparently Mr. Rubio suffers from short term memory. I can recall a more divisive figure in American politics, and that figure occupied the White House just over three years ago.

    May 20, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  7. clarke

    I am sorry but was he talking about the GOP or Dem's.

    May 20, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  8. Larry Trickel

    Wouldn't it be nice if President Obama would just change and do like former Gov. Romney, take a positive approach and focus on what they would do for the country. Guess that isn't possible based on the President's record the past four years.

    May 20, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  9. JFK's secret

    After a full week from last Sunday of Underworld with K ate be CK in Sale as Sel ene, the sell off the weeks stocks was Under World aka under the table.

    Rubio is right on! Now if we can get Senator Rubio to stop the money lawndering, free lawn care, roofs, herein Summerfield, Hillsborough County, Florida, the Senator will have a great future! Apparently the Senator wasn't at O'Connell and Aronowitz, State Street, Albany, NY, when the above was decided.

    May 20, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  10. TheGreenDevil

    The GOP made no bones about refusing to work with Obama from the minute he was sworn into office. They have obstructed every step of the way. Yet Rubio and the GOP want everyone to forget history and blame Obama, when he was the one who constantly reached across the aisle and compromised, only to get slapped in the face. All you need to look at is what's happening with the Supercommittee cuts. The GOP agreed to the total "poison pill" provision, yet now are trying to weasel out and put all the cuts on the backs of the poor and spare the military.

    May 20, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  11. Dan

    He thinks he can see Cuba from his back porch.

    May 20, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  12. ppppuuuuuu

    brilliant my rear end, motor mouth is more apt.

    May 20, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  13. Steve

    Still the Republicans have not found any real issues they can use against Obama. An improving economy in spite of stonewalling by Congress, a dead Bin Laden, troops out of Iraq, badly needed health care reform. Sheading light on RNC's social conservatism (womens health LGBT denial of rights). Basically Obama is calling them on their BS and they are calling him divisive. How dare he show them up for the con artists they really are.

    May 20, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  14. L. R. Long

    "The GOP is a more diverse party than the Democratic party is"...? BAH! HA! HA! HAAA! Yeah, "diverse", says the ONE Latino member of the party. Barack wins the presidency and they make Michael Steele the party chairman... What a coincidence... The Democrats are responsible for the first black president and the first serious woman presidential candidate. I have never heard a more ludicrous statement than this one by Rubio. It's been a political reality that blacks and Latinos have favored the Democratic party for DECADES. Everyone knows that. This statement is just proof that Rubio's perfect for Romney's VP because, like Romney, he'll say anything.

    May 20, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  15. walkthetalk2

    Obama is guilty of class warfare? Then what was Rubio's speech all about? The same frickin thing. All politicians are jokes.

    May 20, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  16. TeacherTeacher

    I wonder if Rubio believes what he is saying... The GOP has done nothing but block the President and refused to compromise. Class warfare? What about GOP attacks on the poor, or unfair/unjust policies favoring the rich? Has the word "divisive" come to mean that someone won't cave in and give you everything you want? Would the polarization of the US have anything to do with GOP backed accusations about the President being born overseas to medical death panels?
    I believe in many of the things that the GOP does, but I will not vote for them because I do not think democracy means handing over the country to corporations and rich seems to me that everyone else is expendable in the eyes of the GOP.

    May 20, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  17. Ken845

    I thought he was talking about George Bush.

    May 20, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  18. GonzoinHouston

    Yet another audition for the VP slot. You gotta love it: first they wreck the economy, then they obstruct, delay, filibuster, and tear down everything Obama tries to do. Then they blame him for not getting better results.

    May 20, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  19. Skeeve

    The republican philosophy. "Let me rob you even more and you pretend that it is just fine. Of cause it is, after all robbing you even more is my God given right. The moment you notice that I am robbing you and ask me why I will immediately call you the most divisive person engaged in class warfare" . Two things, people 1) Do you think that classes are not real? (If you do, you have to explain me why the USA has the lowest social and economic mobility in the western world). 2) Do you think that my economic and politic interests are the same as Jamie Dimon's.
    So if Jamie Dimon and his ilk do not represent me, what is wrong with class warfare? They have been engaged in class warfare for the past 150 year. Somehow they can, yet when I try to fight back – it is divisive. Republican logic is impeccable as usual.

    May 20, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  20. regularguy22

    Rubio is right on track here. This is not an attack. Rather it is the bare boned truth. Obama continues to attempt splitting the nation apart.

    May 20, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  21. Jose Chung

    Rubio is n the attack and calling our President "divisive"? Oh please! Rubio has adopted the dishonor of his party and wears it in stupid pride. This is not a man to be trusted.

    May 20, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  22. king

    These repubs mantra is, GOVERNMENT DOESNT CREATE JOBS, ONLY THE PRIVATE SECTIR DOES. Obama took over a private sector that was was losing almost a million jobs a month, an economy detraction of 9 percent, a stock market at 6000, and corporations that was falling through the abyss begging for a lifeline from this government. Obama took this captive economy and turned it around, now the corporations are doing the best they've ever done in this country's history, yet they're not hiring. How can you blame that on the president if your mantra is, GOVERNMENT DONT CREATE JOBS CORPORATIONS DO. Obama has done his job, and set up corporations in the best position ever to do their job and hire folks, but corporations is all about consolidation, and spending the least to gain the most, this is in their nature. Every time Obama ask them why they are not doing their side of the bargain by hiring folks, they run to the repubs, and the repubs defend them by shouting class warfare.

    May 20, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  23. Paul

    Yeah good luck there Mr. Rubio, wont work.

    May 20, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  24. bkgrandma

    It is hard to believe that Rubio or any other Republican would accuse President Obama of engaging in "class warfare".
    They are the ones who have spent years trying to make the wealthy class richer and the poor and middle class poorer.
    God help this country if people like Rubio take it over, they only care about themselves. President Obama cares about the 99%. OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    May 20, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  25. JimiJam

    I suppose Obama should be unifying the country under the GOP banner, instead of, you know, doing what happens every election and "pit[ting] Americans against Americans" by trying to convince his supporters to vote more than those of his opponent. Right? 'Cause otherwise, he'd just be all "divisive" an' stuff...


    May 20, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16