Marco Rubio may be having a change of heart about the Senate. Just last month, he tweeted a statement that seemed to put the issue of reelection to rest.
I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 17, 2016
But now, months after his presidential bid came to a disappointing end in Florida, he’s starting to sound like he might be looking for redemption in the Sunshine State.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Rubio told reporters that the recent Orlando massacre was causing him to reconsider. "Obviously I take very seriously everything that’s going on not only in Orlando but in our country; I’ve enjoyed my service here a lot," he said. "So I’ll go home later this week and I’ll have some time with my family, and if there’s been a change in our status I’ll be sure to let everyone know."
Just this morning, Florida GOP Rep. David Jolly seemed to confirm that Rubio was rethinking, but then later clarified that he had "no actual knowledge of a Rubio decision."
These developments follow an interview on Monday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in which Rubio initially propped open the door to a potential run, first flagged by CNN. "When [radical Islam] visits your home state, when it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause and causes you to think a little bit about your service to your country and where you’re useful to your country," the senator said. A video recording of the interview was subsequently posted to Rubio's YouTube channel.
Rubio's comments mark the first time since his unsuccessful presidential bid that the senator has even entertained the notion of reelection. This is big news for both parties, as Rubio’s decision will impact the dynamics of a race that could conceivably determine Senate control.
Still, Rubio’s path forward is far from fixed, and a confluence of factors makes his next move hard to predict
Rubio's complicated relationship with the Senate is well-documented. The young senator entered Washington with an ambitious legislative energy, which was struck blow after blow during his tenure. The most noteworthy of these setbacks was the same bipartisan immigration reform effort that initially cemented his status as a rising star in the GOP.
As the Washington Post argued back in April, Rubio’s attempt to strengthen legal pathways to citizenship was a fundamental miscalculation of the desires of his base, one that laid the groundwork for the Tea Party contempt that would ultimately help sink Rubio in the Florida presidential primary.
In addition to the political quandary of whether Rubio would even be able to mount a successful campaign, if he does decide to run he faces another more personal, and more awkward, dilemma: His good friend Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera is running for the same position.
Though López-Cantera has reportedly told Rubio he would step aside if the senator ran, Rubio has previously campaigned for his friend, headlining a López-Cantera fundraising event.
Both parties have unique interest in a Rubio run
As Vox’s Andrew Prokop has noted, the upcoming November elections could see a shift of Senate control from Republicans to Democrats. Rubio’s Florida seat represents a key battleground, and both parties have their own ideas of how a Rubio reelection bid might work to their benefit.
For the GOP’s part, they see a field that lacks a candidate strong enough to contend with the Democrats in the general election. Republican heavyweights like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and even presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, a man with whom Rubio has a complex history, have urged the senator to reconsider.
Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida. Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2016
However, as top Republicans egg Rubio on, the Democratic Party warns that it is readying its arsenal. The Democrats' logic is that another resounding defeat on Rubio's own turf would decommission him for good, precluding him from being a viable Republican option in 2020.
Whatever his decision, Rubio will have to make it soon, as the deadline to register ahead of the state primary is June 24.