by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Eliana Johnson of National Review Online reports on Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s response to critical New York Times reports on his financial history.
When the New York Times on Tuesday became the third major publication to run a report on Marco Rubio’s spending habits and financial struggles, the Rubio campaign didn’t quibble with any of the specifics.
Instead, his team did something unorthodox: They decided not to directly refute charges that the freshman senator is a reckless spender, has drowned in debt, and has engaged in questionable financial practices. Rubio spokesman Alex Conant suggested that they’re not even a liability but rather an asset, because the senator’s financial struggles, which he’s spoken about often on the campaign trail, make him a more relatable candidate. The attacks, they say, even make Rubio look like a victim of snot-nosed elites.
An Associated Press article on Saturday detailed Rubio’s sale of a Tallahassee home that had, for a time, fallen into foreclosure. He sold it in recent weeks for $18,000 less than the original purchase price. The AP headline: “Real Estate Dealings Have Hampered Rubio’s Finances.” Well, Conant says, Rubio can “relate to what middle-class Americans are going through.”
Rubio has already incorporated a line about it into his stump speech. “The latest one that I’m starting to hear rumblings about,” he told a crowd in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, “is that Marco Rubio’s not rich enough to be president.” The senator used the unwanted attention to attack the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton: “Well, it’s true, I don’t make $11 million a year giving speeches to special-interest groups, and it’s true that my family’s foundation hasn’t raised $2 billion, a lot of it from foreign entities with business before the State Department.”
These attacks seem to be something the Rubio campaign, and perhaps Rubio himself, have long expected. It helps to explain why Rubio has openly talked about his financial struggles, if not his high-end purchases, on the campaign trail and in his writing.