“The Rise of Marco Rubio,” a new biography by reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia scheduled for release June 19, may not win a lot of fans within the Rubio camp. That’s because its author drew attention to inconsistencies by the Florida Senator in his retelling of his family history, in a story for the Washington Post. Nonetheless, “The Rise of Marco Rubio” is an in-depth look at the Cuban-American politician full of interesting revelations and tidbits about the ascendant Rubio and his national aspirations.
His grandfather was undocumented: Roig-Franzia writes Rubio’s grandfather Pedro Victor Garcia, was an undocumented immigrant for a period of time. Garcia spent time in the United States but then returned to Cuba, which was then under Fidel Castro’s control, because he did not like to have to rely on his children for money. When Garcia sought to return to the U.S. in 1962 because he became disillusioned with a communist Cuba, he did not possess refugee status, because of his voluntary earlier return to the island. Without an immigrant visa Roig-Franzia writes, “…Pedro Victor is officially an undocumented immigrant, a man standing on American soil without permission to be there.” This was technically true at the time but Garcia would gain permanent residency in November 1966 with the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Exile or immigrant? A heated and controversial distinction: By now its well-known that Rubio was confronted by stories over whether he was claiming that his family were Cuban exiles escaping Castro’s wrath. Roig-Franzia highlights many times where Rubio said his parents came to the U.S. after Castro took power. These include two television interviews, his official campaign and Senate websites and his Twitter account. The author includes interviews with officials and experts who say many Cubans make distinctions between those who came pre-revolution Cuba and those who came after and concludes that Rubio was “eager to identify himself as the son of exiles.”
His finances twice left him with negative net worth: Rubio’s debt from a house, car as well as student loans, left him with a net worth of negative $103,100 in 2002 and negative $46,100 in 2004. He left the Florida House of Representatives in 2008 with a net worth of just $8,351. “His personal finances seemed out of whack with the fiscal conservatism he advocated for the government,” Roig-Franzia writes.
He chided placing foster children with gay couples as a “social experiment”: In April 2006, Florida was being criticized for its inability to place foster children with families. Rubio dismissed expanding the program to include gay couples who wished to take in children. “Some of the kids are the most disadvantaged in the state,” Rubio said. “They shouldn’t be forced to be part of a social experiment.”
Rubio’s team discussed the idea of quitting his Senate race: The fact is mentioned in Rubio’s own biography “American Son” as well. Polls said Rubio was losing badly to Charlie Crist and he faced a massive financial deficit as well. The idea was discussed of having Rubio bow out of his Senate race to run for the much more favorable Attorney General spot in Florida. But Rubio and his team were able to turn things around and the rest is history.
Rubio is a social media dynamo: Let’s face it. Some elected officials aren’t exactly exciting figures to “like” on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter, but Rubio stands out from the group. He was the first U.S. Senate candidate to pass 100,000 “likes” on Facebook (now at more than 263,000) and is one of the top 3 most followed U.S. Senators despite his short tenure.
Rubio has deftly made “Democratic” issues “Republican” issues before: Rubio garnered national attention when he said he was working on a GOP version of immigration legislation which would grant temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants. Though the proposal would not go as far as the DREAM Act, which was pushed by Democrats, it was seen as a way for Rubio and Republicans to introduce and address an aspect of immigration reform. Roig-Franzia points out that Rubio has done this before. In 2003, while in the Florida legislature, Democrats sought to expand prescription benefits to low-income seniors. This was an issue where seniors appreciated the support. To reverse the perception that Democrats were the only ones who supported health care benefits for retirees, Rubio and his mentor Johnnie Byrd, “came up with their own drug plan, albeit a more modest version.” The plan passed in the house and in the state senate.