COLUMBIA, S.C. – Marco Rubio canceled his scheduled appearance at the Conservative Review Conference in South Carolina five minutes before he was slated to go on stage.
Conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert harshly criticized Rubio on his amnesty positions right before the Florida senator was supposed to go on stage.
“Marco Rubio will you raise your hand?” conference moderator Mark Levin said on stage at the conference after it became apparent that Rubio was not going to appear on stage. “Where is he?”
Cruz just went up here @ the Conservative Review conference—organizers tell me Rubio canceled 5m before he was due to go up.
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) February 19, 2016
Rubio’s campaign offered an explanation. “FYI – Because of a delay in today’s schedule, Marco is unable to make the event below tonight. Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy attended to represent the campaign. Tomorrow’s schedule remains unchanged,” the Rubio campaign said in a statement.
“This is a final admission that Marco Rubio isn’t even going to try compete for the votes of conservatives in South Carolina or anywhere else. And who can blame him? Rubio isn’t a conservative,” said Rick Tyler, a communications adviser to Ted Cruz. “Instead Rubio and his campaign would rather hide behind their deceptive campaign tactics and liberal record on amnesty for illegals and voting to nominate John Kerry.”
— Rick Tyler (@rickwtyler) February 19, 2016
Rubio likely would not have been well-received at the convention, according to Breitbart reporter Jordan Schactel, who is on the ground at the conference. Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump supporters were there in droves, but there was little discernible enthusiasm for Rubio. Cruz reportedly received a thunderous ovation when he took the stage, according to John Drogin, the head of a pro-Cruz super PAC.
— John Drogin (@JohnDrogin) February 19, 2016
The Rubio campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Rubio, Tim Scott, and pro-Rubio South Carolina governor Nikki Haley did have time for a photo-friendly trip to the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, S.C. Thursday afternoon before the conference.
A Conservative Review spokeswoman told Breitbart News that Rubio was scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. and sent former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to the event as well as several campaign staffers. Gowdy was supposed to introduce him.
Moments before he was set to take the stage, the spokeswoman said, Rubio’s team informed the Conservative Review team he would be late. The Conservative Review team offered to adjust the schedule, and do whatever it took to accommodate Rubio so he could speak with the conservatives gathered there. Rubio eventually ended up not showing up at all.
Rubio’s campaign is attempting to argue it sent Gowdy and Scott and Jindal as surrogates to the event, but the rule from Conservative Review set months ago was that campaigns couldn’t send surrogates unless the candidate himself came.
The campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for instance, asked to send a surrogate instead of him since he’s doing the CNN Town Hall this evening and Conservative Review refused that. As such, to be consistent with the Conservative Review’s rules, the organization also refused Rubio’s surrogates Jindal, Gowdy and Scott—the spokeswoman said—said they left the event as well. If Rubio had actually showed up, though, they would have been allowed to introduce him.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, who criticized Rubio directly before Rubio was slated to speak, told Breitbart News that he made it clear to the conference crowd that Rubio betrayed his tea party roots during the Gang of 8 immigration debacle.
“I think originally I was going to speak between Marco Rubio and Carson. I said I’m supposed to go after Marco, and the guy said Marco needed to move until later so now he’s going on before Carson,” Gohmert said.
“Well, Patrick, I didn’t mention his name, I didn’t mention any of his supporters. I just pointed out that we were really excited because we had been fighting Boehner’s amnesty and McCain-Schumer’s amnesty and we were so excited when we had a great tea party senator elected from Florida and then he joined the Gang of 8 bill.”
“I met with Steve King and other House conservatives at least once a week, sometimes in Ted Cruz’s office, sometimes on the House side, and we were strategizing about how to slow the bill down. I think the great work that Ted Cruz and Mike Lee did in slowing down the bill really paid off, and Dave Brat got elected thankfully and that’s when it finally died. I didn’t get into all that detail at the conference but I did point out that there was absolutely nothing that Ted Cruz ever did but help the cause of slowing the bill down.”
Gohmert would not speculate as to why Rubio canceled on his speech right after his remarks referring to Rubio.
“Well, see I don’t know, I certainly don’t want to speculate, the old judge in me says you don’t want to assume facts not in evidence,” Gohmert said, noting that Steve King missed the event because his wife was taken to the hospital, and perhaps Rubio had a similar problem. Thankfully, King’s wife is doing fine.
“Amazingly all of those core group people who took a stand to get a new speaker, they are all endorsing the same guy and that guy is Ted Cruz. If you like Boehner you probably won’t like Cruz.”
The campaign manager of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is piling on, saying that Rubio’s decision to cut and run is proof he’s incapable of serving as a commander in chief. Bush, who sat down with Breitbart News’ Washington Political Editor Matthew Boyle for an interview set to air on Friday morning on Breitbart News Daily with Stephen K. Bannon on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125, clearly has time for conservatives while Rubio does not.
— Danny Diaz (@DannyLopezDiaz) February 19, 2016
Danny Diaz is Bush’s campaign manager.
Jordan Schachtel and Matthew Boyle contributed to this report