Campaign over, but Rubio’s job isn’t done

Marco Rubio suspends campaign after losing in Florida primary

Marco Rubio bids farewell to his presidential campaign at Florida International University after losing the Florida primary to Donald Trump on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.
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Marco Rubio bids farewell to his presidential campaign at Florida International University after losing the Florida primary to Donald Trump on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Turns out, the “Republican savior” — as Time magazine crowned him in 2013 — couldn’t save himself. Sen. Marco Rubio, with absolutely no clear path to the party’s nomination for president, did the only thing he should have done — drop out of the race.

Until Tuesday, that path had been riddled with potholes and, ultimately, came to a dead end. It was a race in which underdog Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulled off a decisive win in his home state and Sen. Ted Cruz took Texas on Super Tuesday. But Sen. Rubio didn’t come close to snatching victory from the jaws of the Donald Trump machine in his home state of Florida.

Mr. Trump was declared the winner of Florida’s Republican primary — and Hillary Clinton the state’s Democratic victor — just about an hour after the polls closed. It was a must-win state for Sen. Rubio. But of Florida’s 67 counties, 66 went for Mr. Trump. Only Miami-Dade turned out for the hometown guy.

Tuesday night, Mr. Rubio bowed out with charm and fresh-faced vigor and optimism, the end of his participation in a rough-and-tumble presidential race that was devoid of anything remotely like charm, optimism — or predictability.

Sen. Rubio’s campaign is finished, but his future as a leader is not. We applaud his efforts to take on Mr. Trump, who, so far, has run an odious campaign. Indeed, the Editorial Board recommended Mr. Rubio in this rowdy race.

In his speech to disappointed supporters in Miami, he vowed to “search for ways to repay some of the extraordinary debt I owe to this great country.” It’s a laudable mission, and the best way he can accomplish it is to get back to work.

Mr. Rubio should catch his breath, then return to the job that Floridians were willing to give him when he asked in 2010 — the job that added “Senator” to his name. During the grueling campaign, Sen. Rubio missed more roll-call votes in the Senate that any other in 2015. According to GovTrack, he missed 35 percent, or 120 of the 339 roll votes, during the past year. For the record, between March 2007 and March 2008, candidate Barack Obama missed 47 percent of 98 Senate votes; opponent John McCain missed 63 percent of 100.

These absences clearly come with the territory. But they still deny constituents the representation they have every right to expect. Once back in his Senate seat, Sen. Rubio would be wise to eschew the expediencies of politics for the serious work of governance, something voters across the country rightly saw as missing from his portfolio.

For instance, the senator continues to block the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, for the federal bench in South Florida, despite the fact that Mr. Rubio himself recommended her for the position. But he has held up her confirmation by not allowing the Senate Judiciary Committee to go ahead with it. His partisan holdup cheats both Ms. Barzee Flores and his constituents.

Similarly, Sen. Rubio has found time to hold hostage President Obama’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Why? As assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson was instrumental in bringing about normalization with Cuba, a policy Mr. Rubio loathes. He is now punishing her for doing her job by denying her a fair hearing and damaging our relationship with Mexico.

Mr. Rubio can remain a person of influence. He should start by being the leader — the unifier — he swore he would be in the White House.