When Senator Marco Rubio was selected to give the GOP rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address, he was hailed as "The young and Hispanic face of the GOP"; many conservatives believed they had found a new leader who could rebrand their tarnished image. But this was a "lipstick on a pig" moment in American politics. Putting a young new face in the living rooms of millions of Americans last week was a smart political move. But let's face it: Marco Rubio's policy positions are the same, old tired policies that are out of step with his constituents in Florida and most Americans. Recently, Project New America conducted a poll of Florida voters that found Floridians trust Democrats over Republicans by double digit margins (53% Democrats to 33% Republicans) to fight for the middle class. If Rubio cannot convince people in his home state that his values offer the future they want, he has no hope of convincing the rest of the country.
American voters want honesty and authenticity, but Senator Rubio did not acknowledge that he supports the same failed policies of Republicans in Congress and Rick Scott that cut funding for higher education and Medicaid expansion, while giving more tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations.
Such positions will hurt Rubio, Scott and the Republican Party at a time when Florida voters already trust Democrats much more on major issues. Rubio is on the wrong side of his constituents from the 66% who support a candidate who would expand Medicaid coverage to the 87% who support stronger background checks on gun purchases and the 77% who support allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who meet certain educational requirements. Speaking of authenticity, Rubio has repeatedly flip-flopped on immigration issues. Republicans overall fared poorly on issues that are central to the middle class voters that he mentioned so much in his speech:
Just two weeks ago, Rubio also voted 'no' on renewing the Violence Against Women Act. Though we didn't poll on VAWA in our latest survey, Florida's exit poll trends suggest this is another unwise Rubio stance: women made up fully 55% of Florida's electorate in the 2012 election, matching the share in 2010 and up from 53% in 2008. As women continue to make up a larger share of Florida's voters, it is difficult to believe a candidate who does not understand women's issues will continue to be successful.
As Rubio's public presence expands with his presidential ambitions, and his actions begin speaking louder than his words, Florida voters will be asking themselves whether this man truly reflects their values and whether he is the best candidate to represent them.
Anzalone Liszt Grove Research is a polling firm with extensive experience polling Florida voters, including polling the state for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. This poll of 800 Florida registered voters was conducted for Project New America between January 30 and February 6, 2013, with a mixture of landline and cell phone dialing. The survey used bi-lingual dialers and was offered in both English and Spanish. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.
Project New America is a private company that provides cutting edge tools to understand and communicate with a rapidly changing America. PNA develops, conducts, aggregates, and disseminates research, messaging and on-going strategic guidance with the nation's leading progressive stakeholders.