Does Marco Rubio have a fiscal responsibility problem? In recent weeks the Florida GOP Senate candidate has been stung by new allegations he used the state Republican party's credit card to pay for four thousand dollars worth of home repairs. This is the second time Rubio has faced charges about improper use of a party credit card--in February he reimbursed the state GOP for travel expenses and thousand of dollars in personal expenses he charged to his party credit card during his time as state House Speaker. A variety of voices weighed in on whether Rubio's reformer image could withstand this latest hit.
Bigger Issue The St. Petersburg Times' editorial page argues Rubio's problems go beyond improper use of a GOP credit card. He also needs to explain his role in arranging funds for the 1st District Court of Appeal's new $48 million "Taj Mahal courthouse" in Tallahassee. "The chances something of this magnitude would be approved without the House speaker's endorsement are slim to none," writes the paper. Rubio's reluctance to address the issue head-on could cost him votes. "The outrage may not be that a crime was committed," the editorial notes. "The outrage may be that it was a legal waste of public money, and that powerful legislators like Marco Rubio quietly conspired to make it happen."
- Responsibility Problem The Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell was left unimpressed by a recent interview Rubio gave to the paper's editorial board in which he tried to explain the situation. "I’m not sure I’ve heard a single man blame more other people for his problems in a single hour," writes Maxwell. "What did the former House speaker have to say about all the questionable spending projects that were included in the state budget proposal back when he was House speaker (like $800,000 for Rubio’s own flag football league)? That was other legislators. Questionable charges on his GOP credit card? That was a travel agency or his staffers."
- Culture of Corruption The Palm Beach Post notes that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the GOP this spring to challenge Rubio as an independent, was recently embarrassed by similar revelations that he charged a Disney World vacation to his party American Express card. But the news actually hurts Rubio more than Crist--he makes him seem a party to "ridiculously lavish spending" by Florida Republicans just as he is trying to depict himself as an agent of change.
- Perception Problem Rubio seems to think his unique brand of fiscal conservatism applies to everyone but him, says the editorial board of the Tampa Tribune. The "casual, if not cavalier, use of donors' money undermines Rubio's compelling message of fiscal frugality." Because of the nature of his campaign, Rubio has a smaller margin for error than most candidates. "If Rubio expects voters to trust him to bring fiscal restraint to Washington, he needs to come clean on his own spending."
- Still a Juggernaut Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro can't help but observe Rubio's poll numbers are still holding strong. Why should these latest revelations change that narrative if nothing else has been able to? "It wasn't supposed to be this way," he notes. "The Republican nominee for Senate was supposed to be locked in an epic struggle with independent candidate Charlie Crist and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek. It was to be the Octagon of politics this year -- three men enter, one man leaves! -- the moment that Crist's political savvy and Meek's ability to excite the Democratic base gave Rubio a run for his considerable political fortunes."