The Rubio Campaign Stumbling Over Questions About Why He Skipped CR Convention

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio addresses the crowd during a campaign rally at Clemson University Friday, February 19, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA— This reporter was in attendance for Thursday night’s Conservative Review convention in Greenville, where Sen. Marco Rubio bailed out on thousands of constitutional conservatives at the last moment.

He hasn’t yet apologized for doing so.

Regardless, the event, featuring Conservative author Mark Levin, and Presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dr. Ben Carson, was a smashing success, having filled half a basketball arena with supporters of the Republican candidates.

Rubio was originally scheduled to speak at the convention at 8 PM local time. He had confirmed his attendance earlier in the week, Levin told reporters after the event. Thousands of attendees had paid to hear from conservative thought leaders and legislators. At the appointed hour, Rubio was nowhere to be found.

After Rubio’s no-show, Levin explained that the organizers had tried to accommodate the Florida senator. They were willing to shift around speaking slots, for example, to ensure that he would be able to give a speech there.

But even with the 2-plus hour window provided to Rubio (the conference ran later than its scheduled 10PM end time), his surrogates appeared to claim that logistical issues made his presence at the event impossible, Breitbart News’ Patrick Howley reported earlier on Friday.

The arena is located less than three-quarters of a mile from where he was reportedly situated at the time, at the Westin hotel in downtown Greenville in a meeting with Fox News’ Frank Luntz.

Rubio surrogate Sen. Tim Scott said in a radio appearance the next day:

Like, literally, I was watching the traffic and I was trying to get to the event or the hotel the Westin Hotel for the Frank Luntz event first myself. To go less than half a mile took over 15 minutes.

But contrary to Scott’s statement, there was very little traffic that night. Coincidentally, this reporter stayed at the same hotel where Fox News had reportedly scheduled an event with pollster Frank Luntz, who had taped a segment with Rubio. It took this reporter about 10 minutes to get door-to-door from the Westin hotel in Greenville to the Conservative Review convention in the same part of the city. This reporter arrived at the convention at about 7:30 PM, 30 minutes before Rubio was scheduled to speak.

Moreover, this reporter noticed that a sign was posted at the entrance of the Westin hotel indicating that Fox News had reserved a conference room there until 10 PM, when the convention nearby was scheduled to end.

The question now remains: Did Sen. Rubio make simultaneous commitments and not inform the organizers of the Conservative Review event of the potential scheduling conflict?

The worse, and more likely explanation for Rubio’s no-show, was not that he had logistical issues, but rather, he was unwilling to face a less-than-friendly audience at a convention filled with constitutional conservatives.

Earlier in the night, just before Rubio was slated to speak, Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) arrived at the stage. He spoke about Sen. Rubio’s deeply unpopular Gang of Eight immigration bill, which drew loud boos from the audience.

And suddenly, the Conservative Review organizers were informed that Rubio was not going to make it.

While Sen. Cruz and Dr. Carson were received with great fanfare, all indications were that Rubio was not going to see the same momentous standing ovation, and possibly some boos of his own.

Instead of rising to the occasion and seizing the opportunity to potentially convince conservative voters that he is indeed a conservative; insteaad, perhaps, Rubio cut and ran when it appeared he could not definitively control the outcome ahead of him.


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