U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed Donald Trump for president after bitterly losing to him in the Republican primary season. But he says has no intention of standing alongside him on the campaign trail in the potentially decisive battleground state of Florida.
Not even when Trump is blocks away from him, as was the case on Wednesday.
Rubio, the Miami Republican running for a second term in the Senate, joined black preachers, businessmen and others for a breakfast meeting at Jackson Soul Food in the historic Overtown neighborhood that lasted almost until noon. Meanwhile, Trump was holding a midday rally in Bayfront Park off Biscayne Boulevard.
“We're not doing presidential events,” Rubio declared after the meeting, when asked about appearing with Trump at Bayfront Park or at any time before Tuesday’s presidential election. “At this point, we're focused on our race. We have to be. It's no disrespect toward anyone. We really have to focus on our Senate race. We have a tough fight.... We're just not doing presidential events.”
And on that note, Rubio’s campaign aides whisked him out of the restaurant.
After the Republican primaries, including a drubbing to Trump in Florida, Rubio said he would still vote for Trump — even though he called him “a con artist,” “a serious threat to the future of . . . our country,” and an “erratic individual” who can't be trusted with the country’s nuclear codes. But Rubio has not appeared with Trump during the general election campaign.
Rubio’s Democratic challenger in the Florida Senate race is U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has been accused of padding his résumé while he has pounded the incumbent senator for his “no-show” record of attendance in Congress.
On Wednesday, Rubio pounced on his Democratic opponent. Asked about the latest news report that the FBI was investigating an alleged scheme involving a Murphy donor, the senator said: “He's finishing out his campaign surrounded in controversy.”
Then Rubio added: “There's a lot of controversy swirling around his campaign as there is around Secretary Clinton's,” referring to the FBI’s renewed investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state and her handling of classified emails.
“I think a lot of people are worried about voting for someone who is under an FBI investigation,” Rubio said after the breakfast meeting. “We can't have somebody elected president and then indicted two months later. I do think it’s going to be a factor for many voters.”
Rubio, joined by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, at the Jackson Soul Food meeting, said the gathering “was not about the election” or seeking political support in South Florida’s black community.
Rubio said that he wanted to introduce his Republican colleague to about a dozen black pastors and others to talk about education, economic development and community policing. The meeting was organized by northwest Miami-Dade pastor Gary Johnson, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Rubio said Scott is the driving political force behind an “opportunity coalition” — “giving people a chance to move ahead.”
“Education is the closest thing to magic in America,” Scott said, rattling off a series of initiatives to fight poverty.
“It's a nonpartisan issue,” said Johnson, who disclosed he is voting for Rubio and Clinton.