Fabiola Santiago

Who needs Jesus when we have Marco Rubio?

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.
Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. AP

The “Republican Savior” is back in the political game.

Who needs Jesus when we have Marco Rubio?

After insisting he would stay out of public office following his failed presidential bid, the absentee Florida senator has had a change of heart (one can hope he still has one). He’s running for re-election after all — his tea-party-darling persona intact — despite the fact that those voters he courted to the detriment of his hometown constituents dumped him for Donald Trump.

The Orlando shooting so affected him, Rubio says, that he couldn’t help but step back into the political game.

You know, just in case he needs to save us from sensible gun control.

Those crowds gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol shouting “Do your job!” to lawmakers mean nothing to him. He’s an NRA man. He did show up to the Senate this week to vote against all measures to close loopholes on background checks and keep assault weapons away from home-grown terrorists.

His real talent, as we’re seeing again, is to get out of that frustrating legislative chamber when taxpayers who fund his paycheck are demanding substance. If re-elected, he’d accomplish more of what he has done the last four years: Nothing.

His sole reason for existing as a politician is to pound the ground threatening to thwart the Democrats’ social agenda, offering nothing better. How dare anyone think they’re entitled to decent and affordable healthcare? How dare women claim reproductive rights? How dare immigrants get a shot at the American Dream to which his Cuban parents felt entitled?

Ah, immigration, the issue that built him up and brought him down.

In Miami — where he’s known as Marquito, Little Marco, and not in an endearing way — the news that Rubio is running again wasn’t received with the enthusiasm he might have been expecting. I would say to read between the lines of the social media reaction of the GOP faithful. But no need; they’ll outright tell you the reason they support Rubio’s bid. It’s about keeping the Republican majority in the Senate, not about Rubio’s worth. Name recognition makes the first-term senator an instant front-runner.

Rubio gives the crowded race for his Senate seat “marquee status,” tweeted GOP pundit Ana Navarro, a Nicaragua-born Miamian who detests Trump and publicly rips him. “Very competitive. Marco run, good news for the GOP. Increases odds of keeping seat.” On Facebook, her praise went to “class act” Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida’s lieutenant governor, a Rubio friend who left the race when Rubio entered.

Rubio gives Cuban Americans a bad name when he says he’ll remove the executive order protection against deportation that President Barack Obama conferred on DREAMer kids and their parents. He wants to close the border first. Then he’ll consider giving kids who have lived all of their lives in the United States, in many cases speaking only English and considering themselves Americans, a path to second-class citizenship.

Not hard to see him, should Trump win, helping him build that wall.

Rubio gives Cuban Americans who built a reputation on a hard work ethic a bad name with his terrible attendance record. The excuse for his record-setting absences: The U.S. Senate was ineffective and a waste of time.

But he’s running again, he claims, by popular demand.

He has quickly forgotten that, in his own hometown, Miami’s Cuban-American son couldn’t even fill the end-zone at Milander Stadium in Hialeah, the city with the second-largest Cuban population in the world, when he was running for president. That might explain why, when he left the presidential campaign trail, the first thing he did was file a bill to take away benefits from Cuban immigrants.

For most Cuban-American Republicans, Miami-Dade is Jeb Bush territory.

Bush, who proudly speaks Spanish and embraces his family’s Hispanic-American heritage.

Bush, who hasn’t sold out to tea party rhetoric to win votes. Cuban Americans would rather see Bush make a bid for the Senate over Rubio any day.

There may be some poetic justice in the irony that Rubio’s re-election may be in the hands of Donald Trump, whom Rubio famously described as “small” in one of the reality-TV debates of the Republican primary.

Trump, whom Rubio called “a swindler trying to play the ultimate con game” on American voters, slaughtered Rubio in 66 out of 67 counties in Florida, with only Miami-Dade Republicans voting for Marco. Truth is, the man Time Magazine dubbed The Republican Savior when he was a champion of bipartisan immigration reform has nothing to offer any presidential candidate.

He’s flip-flopping on his pledge to become “a private citizen” come January to join a crowded field of Republicans and Democrats. But hey, hitting the campaign trail gets Marco Rubio out of the office.

Sure, he cares about the Orlando victims and that’s what has propelled him to run.

Members of Congress have enviable health insurance — and, as Rubio has shown us, he doesn’t even have to show up to get it.

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