The Media Misses the Boat on Marco Rubio Story

Marco Rubio, the freshman U.S. Senator from Florida, has been in the political spotlight since his stunning victory in the 2010-midterm elections. Supported by Tea Party activists, independents and Hispanics voters, his crossover appeal caught the eyes of national media. In recent days, the Cuban-American Rubio has been attacked on all sides, for not being Cuban-Exile enough, American-enough and Latino-enough. It’s a ridiculous and shameful assault, which many feel is an attempt to tarnish the career of a promising Hispanic Republican.

This week the attacks on Rubio continue as the media hunts for tabloid stories on the rising Republican star, often mentioned as a potential 2012 Vice Presidential candidate.  As reporters and pundits are hungry for new angles in their 2012 election coverage, they’ve sharpened their attacks on Rubio, alluding that he isn’t Hispanic enough to connect with Hispanic voters. Their analysis is an over simplification, at best, of the often-complicated Latino vote.

Senator Rubio has repeatedly stated he is solely focused on being the U.S. Senator from Florida and currently has no interest in higher office.  He won his senate seat with a strong majority of Latino voters across demographic and political lines.

In Florida, where Hispanic Democrats outnumber Hispanic Republicans by 105,000 voters, Marco Rubio won 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. He won the support of 40 percent of non-Cuban Latinos in the three-way race against a popular Democrat, Kendrick Meek, and an independent candidate, the sitting Florida Governor Charlie Crist.  A Latino Decisions Poll shows that Rubio won as much as 62% of the Hispanic vote.

Rubio helped the Florida GOP appeal to Latino voters in 2010. Only two years before, Barack Obama
won 57 percent of the Latino vote in Florida in 2008. Even now, a recent Resurgent Republic poll shows Senator Rubio has support from over 40 percent among non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida.  An approval rating most politicians would happily accept.

The political chattering classes emphasis on Marco Rubio rests on their focus on the 2012 Latino vote, which will reach a historic 12.2 million in the next Presidential election. Pundits and reporters assume that Rubio will run for national office and that his sole role will be to help the GOP connect with Hispanic voters.

Ultimately, Rubio’s potential appeal to Hispanic voters is not because he’s Hispanic but because he communicates a message of opportunity, responsibility and hard work as well as anyone. The even more compelling attribute is that Senator Rubio can communicate all this in Spanish. (VIDEO: Marco Rubio on Telemundo National Network News.)

Voters are drawn to Rubio, not based on the birthplace of his parents, but his ability to convey the hope they had in America for their family. His working class roots, the sacrifices made by his parents and the success of his own career are part of the iconic “American Dream.” That story connects with voters, be it first-generation or 15th generation Americans.

Latinos don’t automatically vote for Latino candidates. To assume otherwise is to not understand the Hispanic community. Barack Obama and George  H.W. Bush were able to win the support of Hispanic voters, not because they were Hispanic, but because of their vision for America (and a lot of hard work).  They communicated a message about the future of America that spoke to Latino voters, giving them hope that they could succeed in this great nation.

The Washington Post, inspired by birther attacks on Rubio, found an error in his biography and claimed Rubio wasn’t a real Cuban Exile, a story that was quickly debunked by Cuban history scholars and The Miami Herald for “embellishing the embellishments.” The Washington Post attempted to make the case that seeking political refuge in this country in hopes for better opportunities, doesn’t connect with Latino immigrants who come to America for better economic reasons.  (To assume that theses two reasons are at their core different is delusional.)

While some in the media want to put groups against each other (exiles versus immigrants), the truth remains that Marco Rubio’s parents came to America for a better life, be it for political or economic reasons.  His story has always been about personal sacrifice, economic opportunity and empowerment. It is similar to millions of other families who have come to this country in hopes for better opportunities. Latinos and non-Latinos alike.

Democrats are quick to attack Marco Rubio for not supporting some of their political philosophies concluding that because he is of Hispanic heritage he should be in lock step with “traditional” liberal-leaning Latino Democrats.  It’s understandable, that as Democrats lose their grip on Hispanic voters, they are zealous to attack a bilingual Hispanic that provides an alternative (conservative) message on economic empowerment to the fastest growing demographic in the nation.

Many voters outside of Florida have yet to be introduced to Rubio, but it is clear that his message about economic opportunity hits to the heart of the Latino community. View his appearance on Fox News where he comments on Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid’s stupidity saying Hispanics can’t be Republicans.

The one thing we have learned about the “controversies” surrounding Marco Rubio is how little most of the media and political pundits understand about the Hispanic community. They over-simplify and generalize a population of over 50 million Hispanics. The political chattering class is often perplexed when a Hispanic who doesn’t fit into their mold of a Latino voter. They assume that all Hispanics must be the same, not taking into account geography, age, generation, country of origin, among other factors.


1 Comment

  1. I don’t know all of Rubio’s politics, so I can’t say if I support him or not, but it’s a shame when people get pigeon-holed because of weird expectations based on their race. It’s hardly fair.

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