Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has drawn heat from Jewish groups and congressional Democrats for attending a campaign fundraiser at the home of an Adolf Hitler art collector and for doing so on Judaism’s holiest day of the year.
The head of the National Jewish Democratic Council blasted the Florida senator for visiting the home of Texas real estate mogul Harlan Crow – whose home features two original pieces of art done by Hitler – and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the decision to attend the fundraiser "the height of insensitivity and indifference."
But Rubio’s defenders blasted the DNC, pointing out that Crow has a slew of a historical artifacts at his home and is no Nazi sympathizer. His mother, Margaret, a known Dallas-area philanthropist, was almost killed by Nazis during World War II. He is simply, they say, a voracious collector of history.
The senator sent out a tweet late Tuesday in honor of Yom Kippur.
“It's my prayer that our Jewish friends find renewal as they observe this sacred time of reflection and atonement,” he tweeted.
In his massive garden, Crow has statues of a slew of controversial figures including Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong in his garden. He’s an avid collector of historical paintings, manuscripts and letters, including artifacts from Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"There's really no excuse for such a gross act of disrespect," Wasserman Schultz said in a press release. "It is astounding that the presence of these items that represent horror for millions of Jews the world over, would not stop Mr. Rubio or anyone on his team in their tracks when planning this event."
Rubio has seen his star rise in the last week following a strong showing in the second GOP debate and the departure of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from the Republican field. Walker, another young, conservative politician, was vying with Rubio for both Republican voters and donors as the campaign season begins to take shape.
In his home state of Florida, Rubio has overtaken former Gov. Jeb Bush – once considered the GOP frontrunner and man to beat – among Republicans.
A Florida Atlantic University poll released on Wednesday showed that real estate mogul Donald Trump still holds a commanding lead, with 31.5 percent of Florida Republicans favoring him, but Rubio has surpassed Bush to claim second place – bringing in 19.2 percent compared with 11.3 for Bush.
"Marco Rubio being that far ahead of Jeb Bush is surprising," Kevin Wagner, an associate professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow at the university's Business and Economics Polling Initiative, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Some of the early Florida polling suggested that Bush was in a stronger position."