Rubio Warns Nelson: Attacks on Mack 'Could Backfire'
TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is no stranger to negative campaigning, having survived a bare-knuckled contest in 2010 against former Gov. Charlie Crist. Two years later, Rubio is observing another brutal Florida Senate race -- this one between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Connie Mack -- and he doesn't like what he sees.
Specifically, Rubio isn't happy with Nelson's attacks on Mack's youthful indiscretions, including bar fights and unpaid debts. Rubio said Nelson's strategy of maligning Mack's personal life is not only unfair; it ultimately "could backfire" on Nelson and wind up helping his GOP opponent.
"Floridians don't like that kind of stuff," Rubio told Hotline On Call in an interview. "People understand those things have nothing to do with who he is today and the qualifications he brings to the United States Senate."
Rubio criticized Nelson's negative attacks as ineffective because they don't speak to the issues driving the election. "I just don't think it's going to be relevant," Rubio said. "I mean, he's been a member of Congress for a number of years now. He has a distinguished record serving there on the issues he's taken up. So that's what he's going to be judged on."
With Florida positioned as one of the critical battleground states in this year's presidential election, Rubio predicted the Senate contest will be "a close race" that will be decided by the "national issues" being debated by the presidential candidates, including unemployment, entitlements, health care and national defense. On the last subject, Rubio sees an advantage for Mack, saying the congressman has "a unique niche carved out" on foreign policy issues.
Rubio was quick to note another thing Mack has going for him: the name recognition he owes to his father, former Florida Sen. Connie Mack III. "Obviously many Floridians are familiar with his father, and that will help him because his father was a great U.S. Senator," Rubio said. "But Connie has his own record that's pretty impressive."