WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has condemned Donald Trump for lurid comments about women that Trump made on a 2005 tape released Friday, but he has yet to join other prominent Republicans who have withdrawn support for the GOP presidential nominee or have asked him to leave the party's presidential ticket.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among party leaders who have denounced the bombastic billionaire and have said they won't vote for him. The list includes several Republican senators who, like Rubio, face difficult re-election battles this fall, including McCain, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
Rubio himself tweeted his disgust hours after the tape went public: “Donald's comments were vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify. No one should ever talk about any woman in those terms, even in private.”
But the Florida senator, a former presidential candidate himself, offered nothing more by Sunday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Rubio’s campaign referred to his Friday tweet when asked if he had more to say.
Running away from Trump wouldn't be easy for Rubio. Recent polls show Trump still within striking distance of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the Sunshine State.
Rubio himself is doing better in his re-election race and is ahead of Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by a few points in most polls. Not immediately pulling support for Trump may be the “politically smart thing to do,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.
“Right now, a lot of Trump supporters in Florida are certainly supporting Marco Rubio,” Jewett said. “If he completely closes the door on Donald Trump and says ‘I’m not voting for him, I’m not supporting him’ and that sort of thing, then he runs the risk of losing some of those supporters.”
Rubio and Trump clashed during the presidential primary earlier this year.
Trump, mocked the Florida senator as “little Marco” and poked fun at his tendency to sweat on the debate stage and drink lots of water.
Rubio said Trump was unfit for the Oval Office, citing his inflammatory rhetoric, his past support for Democratic policies and his call for deporting undocumented immigrants.
He also called him a “con artist” and “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency.”
But Rubio also consistently said he would support whomever Republican voters nominated. In May, before he decided to run for re-election, Rubio said the choice between Trump and Clinton was clear.
“Donald Trump will sign the repeal of Obamacare. She won’t," Rubio told reporters back in May, long before Trump's 2005 comments were disclosed. "I want the successor to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court to be a conservative. I believe that’s the kind of judge that he’ll appoint, and I know she won’t. I want someone that will defend life. I know he will and she won’t.”
Murphy, a Democratic congressman representing the Treasure Coast, called Rubio’s decision to stick by Trump “political cowardice” that will come back to haunt him.
“Sen. Rubio’s comments follow a familiar dance he has engaged in for month,” Murphy said. “As Donald Trump fires off offensive comment after offensive comment, Marco Rubio stays silent when he thinks he can get away with it, and offers up meaningless rhetoric when he can't.”