Rubio tries to separate from the GOP pack as he mulls White House run

Meredith Shiner
Political correspondent
Senator Marco Rubio is interviewed by Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric at the Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana on January 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photograph by Charles Ommanney for Yahoo News)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Wednesday that his decision to run for president will come in “due time” and will be independent of the choices of other potential Republican candidates about the 2016 race.

Despite repeated and reworded “will you run?” questions from multiple reporters at a breakfast in Washington, Rubio was careful to hedge his words on a prospective candidacy as well as on criticizing fellow Republicans.

“From my perspective, I think the decision I have to make is to decide where I can best serve at this point in my life and my career,” Rubio said at the Christian Science Monitor gathering. “Ultimately I know I need to make a decision in due time if I want to launch a credible [presidential] campaign.”

In Rubio’s home state of Florida, a politician cannot run for two federal offices concurrently, so he will have to decide this year if he wants to take a shot at higher office or run for re-election to his Senate seat.

The questions to Rubio about a prospective presidential bid ranged from whether he believed the party would be hurt by not having a governor at the top of the ticket to whether he had done “research” on how to raise young children at the White House. (He has four kids, ranging in age from elementary to high school.)

Rubio also faced a question he’s been asked a lot lately — whether he is deterred in his own plans by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s exploration of a presidential run.

“I think Jeb Bush is going to be a very credible candidate. I think he’s going to raise a lot of money,” Rubio said.

He was especially careful not to be critical of other Republicans, yet in his tiptoeing around the issue, he seemed to reveal the underpinnings of what his prospective run would look like and how it would differ from the others.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is greeted by colleagues as he arrives to listen to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2015. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

“I clearly remember growing up believing that despite the fact that my father was a bartender and my mom was a maid, I could have the same dreams and the same future as the son of a millionaire or even the son of the president,” Rubio said in his opening remarks, in a brief moment of senatorial shade. “And the fact that this country has made that possible to me is why I want to serve.”

Later, Rubio said the “enduring lesson” for any politician thinking about running for president, and not just from Republican Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 bid, is that candidates need to establish themselves as empathetic public figures first.

Given that he laces almost every answer to domestic policy questions with a piece of his own personal narrative, it’s clear he believes (or his consultants believe) that his personal story, like Barack Obama’s in 2008, could be the key for him to go from freshman senator to the White House, if he chooses to run for it.

“Before people will listen to what you have to say, they need to know that you understand what they’re going through, that what you’re speaking about is relevant to their daily lives. I think that’s a challenge for politicians always, but certainly in the modern era more so, as so many people are struggling to get ahead,” Rubio said.

“This is just not Mitt Romney — it’s any candidate — it’s certainly not helpful to be viewed as someone who doesn’t care about or understand people like you,” he continued.

On the issues, Rubio spoke to the GOP’s struggle to unite around immigration while it criticizes the president for his multiple executive actions that have delayed the deportations of millions.

Rubio, who was one of the co-sponsors of bipartisan, comprehensive immigration legislation in the Senate, said the GOP should not actively seek to revoke the status given in 2012 to undocumented children raised in America who want to pursue higher education or military careers. But he said that no additional people should be granted stays via the order and that it should be allowed to expire at the end of Obama’s term. He also said Republicans should explore all options in trying to reverse the president’s 2014 order delaying the deportations of undocumented parents of American citizen children.

Rubio was one of the first Republicans in the hours after Romney’s defeat in 2012 to call on his party to pursue immigration reform. Now, more than two years later, the GOP is no closer to agreeing on a solution to the policy problem, and that could create further political complications down the road.

“I have never viewed immigration [reform] as a way to win elections, I’ve just viewed it as important and the right thing,” Rubio said. “If you do the right thing, ultimately the politics takes care of itself.”