Can Sen. Marco Rubio win re-election to his Senate seat without teaming up with Donald Trump?
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, the Florida Senator explained why he is eager to win on his own, rather than publicly embracing his former rival.
“Look, I need to win on my own merits,” Rubio said, when asked if he would team up with Trump in Florida this fall at a campaign rally.
While Rubio threw political caution to the wind for his first Senate campaign, his decision to campaign for re-election is marked by political calculation — particularly in regards to Trump.
He explained why he was cautious about a public appearance with Trump, a rival that soundly defeated him in the Florida presidential primary race.
“I need to run my campaign and focus on my race,” he said. “It’s not an anti-Donald thing, it’s just I don’t want to do anything that’s harmful to his efforts and his ability to drive his own message.”
Rubio suggested that the media would sensationalize the differences between the candidates if they campaigned together.
“I don’t want to be a distraction to his campaign,” Rubio said.
He described the election in Florida as unique, since both he and Trump were rivals for the presidency and their differences might preclude any public attempt to display unity.
“It just depends on the forum and so forth, but as of right now my intention is to focus on my own campaign and my own race and not to put ourselves in a position where we could be pitted against each other,” he said.
Trump tweeted support for Rubio to run for re-election, but has largely remained silent about his former rival from Florida.
When asked if he had spoken to Trump since he decided to run for re-election, Rubio would only say that he hadn’t spoken to the presumptive nominee directly in “a couple of weeks.”
Rubio said he knows Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and that both of their teams are communicating about their election efforts in the crucial state of Florida.
At this point, Rubio’s appearances with Trump will likely take place behind the scenes.
The Rubio team agreed to a private meeting with Trump at a Cuban restaurant in Miami with Florida Governor Rick Scott and other Republican officials. That meeting, however, was canceled, after an anti-cop activist killed five Dallas police officers.
But Rubio appeared confident that a similar opportunity would arise in the future.
“I’m sure we’ll run into each other soon,” he said.
Rubio remained hesitant to say whether he would campaign with Trump if offered the opportunity.
“It just depends,” Rubio said. “Right now my intention is to run my own campaign and focus on my own events and we’ll take circumstances as they come and see what makes sense,” he said.
Part of Rubio’s political calculations include the necessity of Republicans beating Hillary Clinton in Florida.
“Obviously I don’t want Hillary to win the presidency and I think if Hillary wins Florida, she’ll win the presidency,” he said.
Rubio joins fellow Senate Republicans running for re-election primarily on an anti-Clinton message rather than a public embrace of Trump’s agenda.
Clinton, he asserted, was “totally disqualified” from becoming the president, citing her deceptive email habits and her failures to protect Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“Just think of the drama she would bring to the White House. They always bring drama with them everywhere they go, our nation just can’t afford that right now,” Rubio said. “More scandal, more controversy, everywhere they go, they bring this with them.”