When Rubio had a chance to push for cuts to entitlement programs as a state legislator, he was restrained.
As House speaker in 2008, Rubio’s chamber initially proposed eliminating Medicaid subsidies for eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aids for the elderly. The House then backed away from the plan.
Rubio was also responsible for steering an additional $20 million to Jackson Memorial Hospital, the state’s largest provider of Medicaid and charity care.
In all, Rubio helped stuff the state budget with about $250 million in hometown spending over the years.
Rubio went on in 2010 to campaign against Washington-style pork-barrel spending. He pointed out that hometown spending as a state legislator was more fiscally responsible than congressional earmarking because the state had a balanced budget.
In his speech Tuesday, Rubio echoed the longstanding Republican complaint about deficits under Obama (although he was silent about the structural budget deficits Obama inherited from President George W. Bush).
“So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich,” Rubio said. “I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”
That was at the end of the speech, long after Rubio took his swig from his water bottle and set the mockery in motion.
On liberal-leaning MSNBC, the clip was played over and over again. Liberal commentators noted that, but for Rubio’s softened stance on immigration reform, the speech resembled Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign rhetoric.
So Rubio, essentially, was carrying Romney’s water.
But where Romney committed gaffe after gaffe and did relatively little to reverse his fortunes, Rubio did the opposite. He laughed at himself. In politics, that goes a long way.
It’s a major difference between Rubio and Romney.
And if Democrats want to stereotype Rubio as Romney-clone not ready for prime time, the joke could be on them in 2016.