Former Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma joined host Stephen K. Bannon on Thursday’s edition of Breitbart News Daily to offer his assessment of the 2016 Republican primary field, and discuss his endorsement of Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. He said Rubio was the most “trustworthy” and electable of the candidates, while Cruz has difficulty getting things done and would have too much difficulty winning support from voters who didn’t wholeheartedly agree with his ideas, and he dismissed Trump as a “carnival barker.”
Despite Rubio’s perilous standing in the polls, on the eve of the crucial winner-take-all contest in his home state of Florida, Coburn remained convinced he was the strongest candidate for the general election.
“I look at a person’s heart, I look at how they voted, I look at whether I know them or not… and I’m out to win,” said Coburn. “Here’s one thing I know without a doubt: that if Marco Rubio is our candidate, we win. I don’t think you can say that about anybody else for sure.”
“Now, I love Ted Cruz’s positions,” Coburn continued. “I’m with him, but I’m not with his technique. And Marco’s not far away from his positions. As a matter of fact, most of his positions are the same. So the question is, who can win? And here’s what people decide on: Can I see into somebody’s heart, and can I trust them? And I believe the American people, if Marco Rubio was the Republican nominee, we’d win it hands down.”
When Coburn said that he looked for presidential candidates who reflected not just his political beliefs, but his entire philosophy of life, including the ability to work with people and achieve satisfactory compromises, Bannon zeroed in on his major complaint against Ted Cruz: the Texas senator’s uneasy relations with Senate colleagues.
“I think Ted’s right on almost every issue,” said Coburn. “But it’s not enough to be right. You have to be effective. You have to get it done. And so sometimes you have to compromise a little bit, to move other people to be with you. And when you’re not compromisable, it makes it very difficult for people who want to get something done to come with you. You can either be at the table, or not be at the table. There’s no question Ted’s right on issues, but if you don’t bring people along with you, you don’t get it done.”
Bannon noted Coburn’s trustworthy reputation, and asked a tough question about Rubio: didn’t the Florida senator’s participation in the Gang of Eight immigration fiasco leave many voters unable to trust him?
Coburn was convinced such voters would regain their trust in Rubio if they got to know him better. He noted that he personally opposed the Gang of Eight plan, insisting that border security had to be achieved before any other steps could be taken toward comprehensive immigration reform, and said Rubio learned that lesson “the hard way.” He stressed that making mistakes shouldn’t cause someone to be regarded as untrustworthy.
“I don’t think he was dishonest,” Coburn said of Rubio’s participation in the Gang of Eight. “I think he was well-intentioned in trying to solve a problem for the American people. And he was wrong – just like McCain was wrong before him. You know, if you ask John McCain now, ‘How do you solve the problem on the border,’ he says you’ve got to secure the border before you can ever gain the American people’s trust. Go ask him that, that’s what he’ll tell you. And that’s what Marco will tell you, too.”
Coburn did not speak highly of Donald Trump, although he recognized Trump’s appeal as a non-politician running against a toxic political class, and said the American people were “right on” in their disdain for the system.
He advised voters to choose their champion against that system carefully, and said Trump’s plans were too vague, or too often revised, to inspire his trust.
“I don’t know what he represents. I don’t think anybody knows what he represents,” Coburn complained. “We’ve heard the superlatives: we’re going to make it better, we’re going to have jobs, jobs, jobs. Well, how, why, when? How do you do that? We’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it – how do you do that?”
He said that didn’t necessarily make Trump a “bad guy,” but he wanted to see the “meat” of Trump’s plans.
“To me, right now, he reminds me of a carnival barker,” said Coburn. “Come on in, come on in and buy this. So tell me what I’m buying! That’s what I want to see.”
To voters attracted by Trump’s populist message, Coburn said: “Great message. Ask the details before you buy. If you go to buy a car, you actually open the hood and say, ‘Is there an engine under here?’ And what I’d say is, make sure you open the hood. I’m not saying he doesn’t have it, but he hasn’t shared it with us.”
You can listen to the full interview with Tom Coburn below:
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