As soon as I saw the early results that Marco Rubio was losing by 15 points in his home state, my mind went to Florida.
I was there in the room when he announced his candidacy. I was surrounded by Floridians who had admired Marco since he had run for city commissioner in West Miami. We were packed like sardines. Everyone was chattering: “I can’t wait to see him up on the debate stage. He’ll wipe the floor with everyone!” “This is his time. I’m sure of it.” “Hillary doesn’t stand a chance!” The room was alive with hope and optimism and determination.
That was in April of 2015 — two months before Donald J. Trump entered the race.
If you had told me in June that a lunatic who likened Mexicans to rapists and had a history of berating women would out-perform Marco Rubio in the race for the GOP nomination, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed.
But alas, here we are.
I’ve admired Marco Rubio since I saw him give a speech at the Reagan Library in 2011. His optimism was contagious. His prowess as a politician was undeniable, but that’s not what made me love him. It was his vision for compassionate conservatism. His respect for all people. His belief that the principles of conservatism were good for people of every walk of life — every race, every gender, every economic class.
Now, as Marco’s campaign ends and the Republican Party flirts with becoming a party devoid of compassion, I’m even more thankful that I discovered Rubio when I did.
When I met Marco Rubio face-to-face at a rally a few months ago, I shook his hand and stumbled through the only words I could think to say to him:
“You’re my hero.”
He laughed and responded, “You need better heroes.”
He couldn’t be more wrong.