Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), under fire on the campaign trail just four weeks ahead of Iowa’s all-important caucuses on Feb. 1, appears to have changed his tune on whether America is great or needs to be made great again.
Rubio is amid a full-scale pander to conservatives as he’s found himself trapped in the ever-compressed GOP establishment lane of 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
This week he’s endorsed Mark Levin’s Convention of States, trotted out Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) as an endorser, and framed himself as a “conservative” while his own campaign team refers to him as a “moderate.” And now Rubio appears to be reversing his criticism of Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, for Trump’s pledge to “Make America Great Again.”
On Fox News on Wednesday morning—appearing from the trail in Iowa—Rubio told the host that he wants to make America great again, or pretty darn close to it.
“We are going to re-embrace the principles that made America great,” Rubio said, referring to America’s greatness in the past tense.
It’s pretty straightforward. We have the greatest country in the world. Barack Obama has systematically tried to change it over the last eight years. I’m going to be elected president, and these folks will help me, and we are going to change the direction of this country. We are going to re-embrace the principles that made America great and we are going to once again have a president that doesn’t just say America is the greatest country in the world, we’re going to have a president that acts like it. And that’s what I’ll do and I’m looking forward to it.
That’s a stark difference from the Marco Rubio who was hammering Trump earlier in the cycle for saying he wants to Make America Great Again.
“There’s one other candidate running, he says he’s going to make America great again,” Rubio said at a campaign stop in Nevada in early September according to the New York Times. “I understand what he means by that. I don’t mean that as a slight.”
“I would remind everyone America is great,” Rubio added then. “There’s no nation on earth I would trade places with. There’s no other country I would rather be. The issue is not that we’re not great. The issue is whether we will remain great. The issue is, we can be even greater than we are now. We can be even more prosperous, more powerful.”
It’s worth noting that “Make America Great Again” was the 1980 campaign slogan of Ronald Reagan, the last conservative to win the presidency, and his vice president George H.W. Bush. Even so, establishment Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rubio and others have dismissed the slogan as Trump has risen to the top of the polls with it.
Now, though, with Rubio saying it’s time to “re-embrace the principles that made America great,” it appears he’s reversing his stance on even that to more fit the mood of the electorate as he’s struggling to rise in the polls any more than he has.
In many ways, Rubio has been the GOP establishment’s last best hope. Bush, Rubio’s personal mentor, has failed to launch. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is struggling to take off—and now has gotten a kiss-of-death of sorts backing from liberal billionaire Ron Burkle, a close friend of Bill Clinton’s who lives a similar extravagant lifestyle. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is having a resurgence of sorts at the expense of Rubio’s woes and but still hasn’t had a blast-off moment yet.