Marco Rubio surfed a wave of Tea Party fury at Washington into the Senate in 2010. Now, he’s drowning in its undertow.
Six years ago Rubio took on then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a charming, telegenic candidate with strong establishment support.
But Crist’s splits with to the conservative base on the stimulus and global warming and close ties to the "establishment" dragged him under in the year that birthed the Tea Party. Now, it’s Rubio who’s been hamstrung by his Washington and establishment ties and apostasies with the base on immigration.
Rubio was once viewed as the party’s savior. Now he's fighting a steep uphill battle to win Florida's primary on Tuesday. If he loses his home state, as expected, it will likely be a final blow to a hobbled presidential campaign.
"The very forces that pushed Rubio and Cruz into office are the ones that are going to push Trump over the finish line for the Republican nomination," said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who has worked in both Texas and Florida.
"It was about that anti-establishment feeling for Rubio and Cruz. And that’s what Trump has become the beneficiary of - he’s been able to harness that same anger against them."