Marco Rubio’s no fool. Florida’s freshman senator was a familiar face in state politics, and a leader in the legislature, long before the Tea Party reared its tri-corned head on the national scene.
His fiscal conservatism was a natural attraction for the Tea Party, and when they decided to adopt him as their poster boy, he was more than delighted to surf the wave that would drive newly-converted moderate Charlie Crist out of the Republican primary race and then go on to swamp him when he tried to run as an Independent With Name Recognition.
Now that Sen. Rubio is happily settling into the cushions of his senate office chair, he has decided (as they all do) that it’s a pretty cushy gig and he’d like to stay on for a few terms. This is why it should be no surprise that when certain senate Tea Partiers called their first caucus meeting, Rubio conspicuously included himself out.
Politically, it makes sense to take advantage of all gifts when running as a virtual unknown against a powerhouse like Crist, who was the odds-on favorite to win the race just a year or so ago. Once Rubio developed momentum as a Tea Party darling, he was further blessed that Crist ran a lackluster campaign and that the Democrat, Kendrick Meek, never caught fire.
Rubio (and this is where the “no fool” part comes in) also knows that a close affiliation with the Tea Party won’t win him reelection in Florida. It might in a state like Rand Paul’s Kentucky, but Florida is too diverse. What wins you reelection here is being the incumbent. By just having the word “Senator” in front of his name for six years, Rubio’s reelection is almost assured, unless he does something incredibly stupid--like continue to identify himself with the party of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who have been distinguishing themselves of late as living in their own unique historical time warp.
He can go on being an ultra-conservative, he just won't be a tea-drinking one.