The Corner

Politics & Policy

Will Rubio’s Credit Cards Take Him Down?

Let’s assume — and it’s a big assumption — that the two-years’ worth of Marco Rubio’s credit-card statements contain more of the same: that is, that they show Rubio, during his time as a junior state representative, charged small (hundreds of dollars) to medium (thousands of dollars) expenses to the Florida Republican party, which he claims to have repaid retroactively. 

Will the new information hurt his campaign? The New York Times describes the “enduring potency” of the issue and says it could be “the biggest liability” of his campaign. 

I think the new statements will have to reveal something genuinely new, either huge charges that were never repaid or charges for items or services that voters would frown upon, something the Republican National Committee knows a little bit about. 

It’s hard to see how more of the same will hurt Rubio. In the primary race, he’s parried the attack well, pivoting as he almost always does — cleverly and in this case in a slippery way — back to the story of his working-class upbringing, worries about about paying off his student loans, and ultimately providing for his children to get a “good Christian education.” 

In a general election, it’s virtually impossible for me to see how Hillary Clinton uses the issue to attack Rubio given the Clinton Foundation’s admittedly sloppy IRS filings and the tangle of questionable relationships and organizations she and her husband have used to enrich themselves. Not as easy to understand as misusing a credit card, but I do think people understand in a vague way that the Clintons have profited from a lot of financial improprieties, and that’s reflected in part in the low number of Americans who view her as trustworthy. (The e-mail scandal, of course, has a lot to do with that as well.)

The point is, it’s hard to imagine how Rubio doesn’t come out on top in an exchange with Hillary Clinton on the matter of financial propriety. 

So barring a shocking disclosure, which there may well be in the yet-to-be-released statements from the Rubio camp, I anticipate the financial issue will be a rather small bump in the road for the campaign. 

My personal view is that his youthful appearance will turn into a far bigger obstacle in the long run.

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