After a series of bare-knuckle debates, and 8 years in Florida’s House of Representatives, Cuban-American Marco Rubio understands the rough-and-tumble of politics and holds a hefty lead in the polls going into the last week of the election.
Political analysts say that Rubio’s lead is an accomplishment in itself.
“It’s a rare feat indeed to push the incumbent governor of your own party out of a primary,” says Christopher Mann, political science professor at the University of Miami.
The Tea Party’s “send the illegals home” anti-immigration platform has been embraced by Rubio, who quickly defends the organization as only a group of everyday Americans who are upset, but concedes there must be more than just collective rage.
“It’s not enough to just be against the policies of this administration or this congress. There are better ways to do this,” says Rubio.
The Obama-backed democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek has routinely placed third in most polls. But the former state trooper did have a Hispanic moment in the first televised debate – calling out Crist in Spanish before a mostly Latino audience while Rubio watched.
“He’s what my Hispanic friends would call a postalita,” [a flip-flopper in Spanish] said Meek, a direct jab at Crist’s last minute party switch that allowed his campaign to continue without the GOP nomination.
Crist held a press conference last April to announce his new found freedom as an independent candidate. Then made no bones about how difficult his campaign had just become.
“I know this is unchartered territory, I’m aware of that. I’m aware after this speech ends, I don’t have either party helping me.”
Rubio, meanwhile, has walked a fine line, courting mostly white conservatives while hoping Hispanic voters would still see him as “uno de nosotros- one of us.”
Skillfully, Rubio has managed to portray himself as understanding Latino concerns, while supporting Arizonas controversial immigration law and opposing the failed 'dream act'-- which would have fast-tracked children of illegals to citizenship-- calling it wrong and too inclusive.
“This bill applies to 2 million people and it applies to people as old as 35 years of age, it was a cynical political move nothing more than that,” Rubio said.
Barring any unforeseen missteps, if elected, Marco Rubio would become one of only two U.S. senators of color.