Just over seven months ago, Senator Marco Rubio suffered a humiliating defeat, losing his home state of Florida to his Republican rival in his the presidential primary. With 11 days to go, polls show that Rubio is outperforming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and on course to win another term in the U.S. Senate, a job he almost gave up on earlier this year.
In an interview with Jewish Insider on Friday, Rubio insisted that his initial decision not to run for reelection had nothing to do with his distaste for working in DC. “I was committed to continuing in public service,” he explained. “I had made a decision to try to do it as president. I believe that members of Congress can help shape the direction of our country, but the president sets the agenda. So I made the decision that I would run for president, I wasn’t going to do two things at once, and when that decision didn’t work out I was prepared to move on and be a private citizen and seek other ways to serve. But I did become convinced that it was important for our country to have a senator in Washington prepared to stand up to the next president, no matter who it is.”
Rubio, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, pointed to the Iran nuclear deal as an example of the hyperpartisanship that exists in Washington.
“The partisanship and the gridlock, I am troubled by it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I can tell you, the Iran nuclear deal is a very disappointing development because many of my Democratic colleagues know that it’s a bad agreement, but they chose their party over the right thing. I thought that was an example of hyperpartisanship. And my own party took far too long to address Zika, something I didn’t think was a political issue. I am not happy about it. There are plenty of issues we could fight over, but there are some that we should be able to put partisanship aside, and too often that’s not happening.”
Looking back at his failed presidential bid, Rubio maintained that his lack of executive experience is not something that could hurt him in a future presidential bid if he can leave a mark in the senate. “There really is no job in the world that prepares you fully for the presidency,” he asserted. “The presidency is a very unique office. It is not a purely executive function. The president is not a bookkeeper. The president is the leader of a nation, it’s the leader of our people, it’s the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. So, I think what’s most important is to show that you are someone with good judgment, but also someone with a depth of knowledge about the issues.”
Have you made up with Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz since the primary? we asked.
“Of course,” Rubio said. “I have talked to Ted a number of times. We had dinner together a month ago, and talked to Governor Bush just yesterday. He was one of the first people that endorsed me within the hour of me announcing that I was running and he encouraged me to run again. The primary has long been over and the relationships are enduring. Politics is one thing, and, I think, when you are a competitor you respect other competitors. We all wanted the same job and none of us got it (chuckle), and we’ve all now gone in our own direction. Ted obviously continues in the senate and Governor Bush continues to be very active on education reform and his business life, now teaching at Harvard. So, I think we are in good shape.”
The Florida Senator also touted his great admiration for GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who refused to back him in the Republican primary. “I am not disappointed,” Rubio saod when asked if he was disappointed to see Adelson endorse Trump right after the primary was over. “He is a good friend. He’s always been very supporting and encouraging in many different ways. He chose not to participate in the Republican primary. He didn’t want his money to be used by Republicans to attack other Republicans, and I respect that. My affinity to Mr. Adelson and to his wife Miriam extend beyond politics. I think he is a phenomenal story. I, of course, lived in Vegas for a number of years. I have tremendous admiration to the way he runs his properties there, the way he treats his employees, and, of course, his wife Dr. Adelson is one of the world’s leading experts on addiction. They have always been very helpful to me in so many different ways.”
As he seeks the trust of voters in this year’s election, Rubio said his goal is to serve a full 6-year term, “God willing” and “making my mark in the senate.”
“I believe that if not the presidency, being a U.S. Senator if you do the job well, is a very solid way to have a real impact on the direction of our country,” he stated.
In terms of fundraising, Rubio said that Trump’s candidacy did not hurt his fundraising efforts the past few months. The campaign announced Thursday that Rubio raised $2.85 million in 19 days. According to the most recent FEC report, Rubio raised more than $11.1 million through Sept. 30. “We have been very blessed to have good friends all across Florida and the country who have donated to our campaign,” he said. “The average donor has given more than $100. We rely on a lot of everyday people who believe in our cause. Just in the last 48 hours, we learned that my opponent lent himself one million dollars of his father’s money and Harry Reid gave him over a million dollars to spend against me. So, we need those resources to communicate, but it hasn’t impacted our ability to get the resources that we need more of.”
We also asked Rubio to share with us the backstory of his water bottle toast with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the last time he visited Jerusalem. “I had an opportunity to visit him about tow weeks after the State of the Union response that I gave where I had taken that sip of water on the air, and he’s a very keen observer of American politics,” Rubio recalled. “His national advisor back then, now the Ambassador, Ron Dermer, who I know from Miami Beach, kind of orchestrated that. I thought it was funny. I enjoyed it. It was good.”
“Netanyahu,” Rubio said, “understands American politics better than any foreign leader on the planet. He lived here, he worked here, and, obviously, watches very closely everything that happens here in American politics.”