The Corner

Politics & Policy

Parsing the Rubio-CPAC Brouhaha

It’s understandable that the American Conservative Union, organizer of the Conservative Political Action Conference, would want to get its speakers lined up, with 100 percent certainty, as soon as possible. The convention runs from March 3 to 6, and most of the big speakers and events traditionally occur Thursday and Friday.

While Rubio’s schedule for the upcoming weeks is understandably dependent upon what happens in the coming weeks — particularly March 1, the “SEC Primary,” it doesn’t seem unreasonable for CPAC to expect Rubio to be able to squeeze in an appearance one of those days.

Rubio presumably wants to attend the Fox News Republican debate scheduled March 3 in Detroit, Michigan. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson have all given the ACU firm “yes” answers, and they presumably have the same intention of participating in the debate.

According to Leon Wolf of Red State, the Rubio campaign’s answer to CPAC, as of 9:43 a.m. this morning was, “we want to do it, but we can’t commit to a specific date or time at this point. If they have to take that as a no for an answer, we understand. But it’s not our intent.” He has a screen capture of the e-mail from the Rubio campaign.

Today the American Conservative Union issued a statement that Rubio is “unwilling to make time to meet with activists and answer their questions.

Although, Marco Rubio has built a conservative record and has a high ACU rating, he and his campaign have made a rookie mistake. Today the Rubio campaign informed ACU’s chairman that their candidate is unwilling to make time to meet with activists and answer their questions at CPAC 2016. Sen. Rubio cannot have it both ways: he cannot hope to be the inspirational leader of conservatives and at the same time hide at the very moments when activists who comprise the heart and soul of the movement assemble and organize. For 43 years CPAC has been that critical moment, and this year’s conference will be the biggest yet.

This feels like an avoidable dispute. Rubio could have lined up a time and date to appear and then done their best to get there. CPAC could have been a little more patient with the Rubio campaign and not interpreted a “we can’t commit yet” answer as “unwilling to make time.” (Problems with the campaign plane disrupted Rubio’s schedule in the closing days of the South Carolina primary.)

But it’s that time in the election cycle where everyone is on edge…

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