Will the Real Marco Rubio Please Stand Up?

Something that people either don’t know or tend to forget is that Marco Rubio endorsed Mike Huckabee during the 2008 cycle.

“For those of us who consider ourselves to be Reagan conservatives, Mike Huckabee is our best chance to win the nomination,” Rubio told reporters in late 2007. “People are looking for genuineness and sincerity in politics. He has those qualities as well as the positive leadership skills needed to run our country.”

In fact, the two worked so much together, Huckabee credited Rubio with changing his mind on key policies related to Cuba. Specifically Huckabee had been for ending the embargo with the communist nation. But after spending time with Rubio in 2007, Huckabee changed his stance and refused to support ending the embargo without significant democratic reforms in Cuba.

At the time, Rubio was the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He could have followed his mentor Jeb Bush’s lead and endorsed Mitt Romney, but he went with an unhinged biblical literalist and transparent huckster and con man instead. Even at the time, Rubio’s choice mystified a lot of people, but one of his advisors explained that raw ambition was behind it.

At the time, Rubio was on his way out of the speakership, and he was looking to have a greater presence on the national scene. He would get more of a return with Huckabee, more so than with Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or John McCain.

“That was an endorsement really where they had nothing to lose, especially Marco,” the aide told The Daily Beast. “It was more of an introductory move to get his foot in the door. Back then Marco was really pitching his conservative values, and it mirrored where Huckabee was… It just elevated him a little bit, elevated himself on the national scene. If Huckabee had legs, [Rubio] would have had a pretty big presence.”

Maybe so, but Rubio said he went with Huckabee because he thought he was the strongest opponent of reproductive choice: “I want the Republican Party to be the party of life and family, and Mike Huckabee is the best candidate on those issues.”

In other words, Rubio wanted to cast himself as a politican evangelicals should rally behind. But if we flash-forward eight years, Huckabee is not inclined to return the favor. He says that he’ll probably support Trump if he isn’t successful in winning the nomination himself, and that’s remarkable because Trump is the worst poster boy for family values that the Republicans could choose. What Huckabee and Trump share isn’t a love for marital fidelity and conservative Christian values, but a gift for ripping people off. I guess grifters gotta stick together.

As for Marco Rubio, we keep hearing him characterized as “a target straddling the line between the conservative and establishment wings of the Republican Party.” And I guess that he should be given political credit for being able to create that impression.

Here’s the deal, though. Folks are looking at two things. First, they’re looking at the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and casting around desperately for an alternative. Second, they’re looking at how bereft of juice and hope the Jeb! Bush campaign has become.

And they keep coming back to Marco Rubio as the guy who should be able to fill that void. That’s why his competitors are ganging up on him now and calling him weak and unreliable.

But I keep coming back to that Huckabee endorsement from late 2007.

Is that something a true “Establishment” candidate would do?

So, which is it?

Is Rubio a far-right candidate for biblical literalists or the safe establishment alternative to Trump and Cruz?

He’s tried to have it both ways, but his opponents are going to make him choose.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.