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Absentee Ballot Fraud (Part 2): How It Works

Fraud involving absentee ballots is nothing new in South Florida.

According to the 2012 Grand Jury report on absentee ballot fraud, the 1997 election for mayor of Miami was so plagued by ballots filled out by boleteros that an investigation was launched, ultimately resulting in the successful prosecution of some 54 people, including a City of Miami commissioner, his chief of staff, and the chief of staff’s father.  Following a civil lawsuit by the losing candidate (Joe Carollo), the judge found fraud in so many absentee ballots that he threw them all out, which resulted in the losing candidate being declared the winner over his opponent, Xavier Suarez.  [Karma note:  Xavier Suarez is the father of Francis Suarez, who recently withdrew his candidacy for mayor of Miami after his campaign workers pled guilty to absentee ballot shenanigans; Joe Carollo is the older brother of Frank Carollo, who is running for re-election as District 3 commissioner.  This is one incestuous town!]  Something similar happened in Hialeah in 1993.

The grand jury report notes that the prosecutions for the 1997 fraud were successful—and even possible—because witness signatures were required on the ballot envelope, which enabled investigators to track down people who had “witnessed” multiple ballots.  Since then, the requirement was reduced to only one witness, and in 2004 eliminated entirely. Now it is very difficult to tell who may have “assisted” a voter in casting her ballot.  For that reason, one of the key recommendations of the grand jury is to reinstate the requirement of a witness signature and contact information.

One of the major old-school methods for absentee ballot fraud is to work the senior living facilities. Old people (and I speak as someone who might be considered one) are often easy prey for conmen who gain their trust and then manipulate or deceive them into doing something they otherwise wouldn’t do. Boleteras “help” the elderly with their ballots, sometimes actually filling them out, and volunteer to deliver them.  [Note:  Under current law, anyone who assists a voter has to sign a declaration that he is not an employer or union official, but there is nothing that prohibits a paid or volunteer campaign worker from doing so.  The grand jury recommended adding such a clause to the declaration.]  Once the boletera has the ballots in hand, she can deliver them, mail them, alter them, or—if they’re not marked for the candidate she’s working for—destroy them.

Then, there are the campaign workers who show up at the homes of people who have received absentee ballots and offer to “help”.  This may have been what was going on in Homestead last week.

How do they know which houses to target?  Shockingly, candidates have access to the names and addresses of anyone who requests an absentee ballot, which is something that you and I do not have.  Yes, you read that right.  Information about voters who request absentee ballots is treated as confidential, EXCEPT for “the voter requesting the ballot; a canvassing board; an election official; a political party or official thereof; a candidate who has filed qualification papers and is opposed in an upcoming election; and registered political committees or registered committees of continuous existence, for political purposes only.

You can sense the incredulity and indignation of the grand jury about this:  “Simply stated, individuals and groups who have a direct and obvious interest in issues or candidates on the ballots have the ability to get the name of every voter who requests an absentee ballot, the voters’ residence address and the date the voters’ absentee ballot is mailed.  The persons who have the most to gain from the election are the ones who have access to this confidential information.  For someone who is predisposed to engage in inappropriate and/or illegal activity with respect to absentee voters, this…arms them with the specific information of whom they should target and where and when they should move in on the target. The…”exception” effectively paints a bull’s-eye target on the back of every vulnerable absentee voter.  We strongly recommend that the legislature remove the bull’s-eye by limiting the public records exemption, and making this information available only to a canvassing board or an election official…”

These old-school techniques are specifically geared to victimize vulnerable elderly and poorly educated elements of the community and generally require some face-to-face contact with the would-be voter.  The newer approach of requesting bogus ballots on-line or by phone does not.

As Herald journalist Marc Caputo pointed out, all you need to get an absentee ballot is someone’s phone number, address, and date of birth.  He then described how he did it by calling from a blocked phone and having the ballot delivered to a co-worker’s address.   The only question asked was whether future absentee ballots should be sent out for the next three years.  [Fun fact:  More than half of all ABs are sent out automatically, a practice that the grand jury found an invitation to fraud and recommended requiring a new request for every such ballot.]

As Caputo observed,  A sophisticated political group that decides to steal ballots could call as if they were other people — say unsuspecting elderly voters or the 80,000 people in Miami-Dade who vote so infrequently that they’re classified as “inactive” voters. Chances are those voters would never know someone else requested a ballot in their name and had it sent to any of the thousands of foreclosed properties in Miami-Dade.”

According to the grand jury report, “the security of the on-line absentee ballot request system is very low, as there are no user specific log-ins or passwords required by the voter requesting a ballot.”  Before the 2012 primaries a computer program submitted more than 2,500 fraudulent AB requests, routed through anonymizers overseas to conceal the IP address of the requesting computer. They were flagged as suspicious partly because they were being submitted at a rate that was humanly impossible.  Jeffrey Garcia, the former chief of staff to Congressman Joe Garcia, who recently pled guilty to requesting 1,700 ABs without voters’ permission, apparently was nabbed because the operation was unsophisticated enough to use a computer with an identifiable IP address.

Theoretically, the safeguard on this type of fraud would be the check of the signature on the AB against the one on file with the election bureau.  However, such checks are done visually by election department employees, and given the sheer volume of ABs to be scrutinized, the likelihood of missing a forged signature (or misidentifying a genuine one as false) is significant.

With such feeble safeguards in place, the chances of getting caught and convicted have been pretty slight, unless the perps made some rather dumb mistakes.  And even if they were caught, the penalties have generally amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.  Jeffrey Garcia seems to be one of the very few to have gotten jail time.  The grand jury recommended raising ballot fraud from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony as an added deterrent, and noted that lax enforcement of the laws has been the Achilles heel of the voting system.

How likely is all of this to change?  As long as Republicans control the state government, don’t hold your breath.  As Caputo observed, Republicans dominate absentee balloting and have little incentive to limit it even though absentee ballots are the biggest single source of voter fraud.  They’d much rather make draconian purges of voter rolls, cut back on early voting, and suppress voter registration.

Current regulations regarding absentee voting can be found here.

Absentee Ballots: The Real Voting Fraud, Part 1

Rick Scott and his minions in Tallahassee and throughout the state are mounting yet another effort to purge thousands of people from the voter rolls (a subject for another post) to solve a phantom fraud problem which they can’t demonstrate actually exists.  This is the local version of a neo-Jim-Crow Republican effort now happening in many states where the GOP controls the legislature (Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina being perhaps the most egregious examples) obviously intended to reduce voting numbers among people most likely to vote Democrat.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled state government has shown no interest in addressing a real—and far larger—voting fraud problem, which is the rampant abuse of absentee ballots.  It seems a new absentee ballot (AB) scandal in Miami-Dade erupts in the headlines every week.  Some recent examples:

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The problem has become so pervasive that absentee ballot fraud is suspected of affecting the outcome of a number of elections.  There are numerous examples where the absentee ballot count has been so grossly out of sync with the count of ballots cast in person that the appearance of fraud is hard to overlook.  Manipulation of ABs is clearly practiced by politicians of both parties and their supporters, and it’s hard to know who are the worst abusers.

It’s not just a Miami-Dade problem either; Broward has had some similar cases, as have other parts of the state.  But in Miami-Dade, manipulation of ABs is so commonplace that the people who gather and deliver (and often fill in) the ballots have a special name:  boleteros (or boleteras, if female, as many are).

The abuse during the 2012 primary elections became so blatant that the mainstream press and law enforcement finally started paying attention.  (Two Miami-based blogs, Eye on Miami and Political Cortadito, had been doggedly exposing the problem for much longer—check their archives for chapter and verse.)  This finally created enough of a stink that a grand jury was charged with investigating the problem.

The grand jury’s report on absentee ballot fraud, which was issued in December 2012, is definitely worth reading if you’re at all interested in this issue.  It looks at the background of AB fraud, the methods employed, the consequences, and calls for specific remedies to alleviate the abuse.  Somewhat to my surprise, I found the document well-written in clear and jargon-free language and easy to understand, and the changes in the law that it proposes make a lot of sense.  (The Miami Herald summarized some of the recommendations here.)  Unfortunately, most of the recommendations require legislation changes at the state level, which has not yet happened, as far as I can tell.

Voting absentee was once just for people who, because of illness or travel, could not make it to the polls on election day.  Until the law was changed in 1997, voters had to “show cause” in order to get an absentee ballot.  Now—in Florida, at least—voting absentee is mostly a matter of convenience.  Miami-Dade County actually encourages absentee balloting, in part to reduce the outrageously long waits at polling places on election days.

In the 2012 general election, waits of 6 hours or even longer were not uncommon, adding to Florida’s reputation as a national laughing-stock for fucked-up elections.  Rick Scott and the Republicans in Tallahassee made the situation worse by cutting back on the number of early voting days, which meant that even for people voting early the lines at the limited number of polling places were unacceptably long.  This, of course, makes voting absentee even more attractive, and the use of ABs has grown so much that they often represent more than one-third of all ballots cast.

The problem is that the procedures to assure the identity of in-person voters at the polling site and make sure that they personally fill out the ballot and deposit it in the box, are largely non-existent for absentee voters, and it just isn’t that hard to get around what there is.  As the grand jury report points out, absentee voting is essentially on the “honor system”, and honor is not the first word that comes to mind when considering Miami politics.

With such a huge lode of ABs in play, and the integrity of the process so easy to pierce, it’s not surprising that unscrupulous political candidates and their campaign workers have developed methods to manipulate absentee ballots to fraudulently inflate their vote totals. And if every candidate thinks (perhaps correctly) that his opponent is doing it, responding in kind becomes awfully tempting.  It could make all the difference in a close election.

The other side of the coin is that absentee ballots are invalidated and not counted at much higher rates than ballots cast in person.  According to the grand jury report, in the 2012 general election, some 5,263 absentee ballots in Miami-Dade were rejected for “no signature”, “postmarked late”, “returned undeliverable”, “signature did not match”, or “signed by someone else”.  State-wide, some 2 percent of ABs were invalidated—a rate twice that for in-person votes.  So even if you request your own ballot, fill it out yourself, and mail it in, if you make one of these mistakes then the ballot could be thrown out and you would never know it.

More next time…

Miami-Dade Has an Election on November 5

In case your attention has been diverted for the last month or so, I feel duty-bound to point out that there is a general election in Miami-Dade County scheduled for November 5.

What?  You didn’t know that?  Well, consider yourself absolved if you read the rest of this post—especially those of you who live in the cities of Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, or Homestead, where municipal offices are at stake.

It’s too late to register to vote for this election, but if you’re already registered, you can request an absentee ballot as late as October 30.  Early voting will continue until November 3.  For other information, or to get a sample ballot, go to the county’s website here.

Jackson Bond Issue:  For most of us in Miami-Dade, there is only one thing to vote on:  Whether or not to approve an $830 million bond issue to fund repairs, upgrades, and new equipment for the public Jackson Memorial Hospital system.  Hospital administrators say that now that Jackson is back on a sounder financial footing the funds are needed to make its services and facilities competitive with other hospitals in the area.   They note, correctly, that Jackson is the primary provider of hospital care for the county’s uninsured residents (about 1 out of every 4) as well as Medicaid recipients.

So, should you vote YES?  I’m still on the fence on this one. The bond issue has the endorsement of the Miami Herald.  I generally support bonds that improve or maintain essential public institutions—particularly those that benefit the less-well-off members of the community, as Jackson clearly does.

However, others whose opinions I respect are urging a NO vote.  Eye on Miami, who does a better job than just about anyone of keeping an eye on the money sloshing around this town, makes an argument for just saying no.  I asked my neighbor, who just retired from Jackson’s medical staff, what he thought, and he said he might be inclined to vote no because he thought the system had over-expanded and needed to consolidate its operations.

I’m leaning toward voting yes anyway.

City of Miami.  Up for vote are the mayor and two council positions: Districts 3 and 5.

On the council positions, the Herald has endorsed Frank Carrollo for District 3 and Jacqui Colyer for District 5.

There’s no real race for mayor since city Commissioner Francis Suarez dropped out as a candidate, leaving incumbent Tomas Regalado a virtual shoo-in.  Three other candidates have filed for the office but have raised almost no money for a campaign.

The interesting thing is that only a few months ago, Suarez (son of former Miami mayor Xavier Suarez) had the backing of Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez and most of the city’s establishment and had raised more money than Regalado. Then, suddenly, in late August he announced that he was no longer running, citing his wife’s long-awaited pregnancy as the reason.  However, the announcement also closely followed two of his campaign officers pleading no contest to absentee ballot fraud—the besetting sin of Miami-Dade politics.

For Regalado, this was a gift from heaven.  The mayor has had his own problems since taking over in 2009, including an effort in 2011 by the police and firefighters union to recall him. The Miami New Times published an article listing 10 reasons why Regalado should be recalled.  Regalado defended his positions (for example in this TV interview), and ultimately nothing came of it.  But jeez, it’s hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys in Miami!

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because Regalado will stay on as mayor.

The ballot also includes a proposal to revamp the Coconut Grove waterfront, which needs voter approval to proceed.

City of Miami Beach:  At stake are the mayor and three council members, as well as several propositions including one adding a non-discrimination paragraph to the city’s charter.  You can find a sample ballot as well as other voting information at the city’s website here.

For mayor, the Herald has endorsed Michael Gongora, who is currently the Group 3 commissioner.  Gongora, who is openly gay, has also received the endorsement of the gay rights groups Equality Florida, which has also endorsed Sherry Roberts, Jorge Esposito, and Matti Herrera Bower for the three council seats.  SAVE Dade, another gay rights group, has made a similar endorsement.  Phillip Levine, however, claims Bill Clinton’s endorsement  as well as that of Sen. Bill NelsonHere’s Miami Beach blogger Random Pixels on Levine.   Political Cortadito likes Steve Berke.  The Miami New Times has a pithy rundown on the candidates here.  Looks hard to choose, really.

City of Hialeah:  Hialeah is electing the mayor and three council members.  The city’s election information website is here.   There is a link on the page to get a sample ballot, but when I clicked on it, I just got the Notice of Election, not a sample ballot.

Venturing into the murky waters of Hialeah politics is not for novices like me.  If you’re interested, check out the blog Political Cortadito, e.g., this post here.  So far, I haven’t seen an endorsement from the Herald for anyone for the mayor’s race, but here’s one from the Examiner for Juan Santana, who looks like a very long shot.

City of Homestead:  Homestead is electing a mayor, vice mayor, and one councilmember.  For information and a sample ballot, go to the city’s election website here.

The incumbent mayor, Steve Bateman, was arrested in August and charged with illegal compensation.

The Homestead election comes with its very own absentee ballot fraud scandal involving campaign workers for mayoral candidate Mark Bell. Bell is the husband of Miami-Dade commissioner Lynda Bell, who is perhaps the most anti-progressive, anti-gay, anti-environment official in the county.  Lynda Bell seems never to have met a developer she didn’t like, and led the opposition to a proposed amendment that would have added gender identity to the county’s existing anti-discrimination ordinance.   In September, a recall effort was started against her, which has been joined by SAVE Dade, a gay rights organization.

Voting for Mark Bell would effectively make Lynda Bell mayor of Homestead as well as county commissioner.  His opponent, Jeff Porter, looks like much the better candidate.  Update:  Eye on Miami endorses Porter; see his comments here.

Rubio Votes in Favor of US Government Default

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was one of a minority of 18 US senators–all Republicans–to vote against the Reid-McConnell deal to re-open the US government and avoid default on the country’s debt.  He was joined in that vote by fellow Teabaggers Rand Paul and, of course, Ted Cruz, whose demagoguery created this whole sorry mess.

Rubio has definitively cast his lot with the radical Tea Party wing of the Republican party whose demented (and, in my opinion, racist) hatred of President Obama has led them to the point of being willing to shut down the US government and harm the creditworthiness of this country.   Even with this episode now over, they have done great damage and wasted billions of tax dollars for absolutely no good reason.  And they will probably try to do it again when this stopgap deal expires.

By the way, the two South Florida Republican representatives in the House of Representatives—Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart—both voted in favor of the Reid-McConnell compromise.  Apparently, they decided that a “No” vote would not go over well in a part of the state that delivered Florida’s electoral votes for President Obama twice.  However, ten of their GOP colleagues from Florida did vote NO (one didn’t vote) like the majority of the Republican representatives in the House, showing that they would rather plunge the country into financial chaos than…wait, what was it they wanted?  Hard to tell, because it kept changing from minute to minute.

Rubio is an embarrassment, and the Democratic party should start now to defeat him for re-election in 2016.

Is Ros-Lehtinen Beatable Now?

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A new poll indicates that Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen trails in a hypothetical contest with a generic Democrat if the election were held now.  This is a truly startling result, and suggests that public revulsion over the GOPs tactics may really be hitting home, since her re-election in Florida District 27 in Miami-Dade was generally considered a no-brainer (pardon the pun).

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In 2012, Ros-Lehtinen ran virtually unopposed for re-election after the Democrats failed to come up with a real candidate.  Yes, there technically was someone running as a Democrat—one Manny Yevancey—who somehow got on the ballot and then was never seen again.  There was no information available about the elusive Mr. Yevancey, who might as well have been plucked from a Carl Hiaasen novel.  There was no website and no campaign—it really looked like a joke.  And of course, Ros-Lehtinen won in a walk.

The new poll was run by Public Policy Polling and sponsored by the progressive organization Move On as one of several done in selected districts throughout the country.  See the full results here.  (The poll was done October 8-10 among 620 respondents in the district.)

Basically, the poll gives an unnamed “Democratic Opponent” 47 percent over Ros-Lehtinen’s 45 percent if the election were held now.  Even more interesting, after respondents were informed that Ros-Lehtinen supported the shutdown, the margin grew significantly:  53 percent for the “Democratic Opponent” to 42 percent for the incumbent congresswoman.

I’m no expert on polling methodology, but even considering that the survey was commissioned by a Democrat-aligned group, this is eye-popping.  The Miami New Times, where I first saw this, noted several caveats about the poll—perhaps rightly.  Even so, the Miami-Dade Democratic committee should be sitting up and taking notice and looking at potential candidates who might run a real campaign.

Ros-Lehtinen is energetic and likable.  She comes across as a reasonable, thinking person—something quite rare among Republican politicians these days.  She has been willing to break party taboos on a few issues such as gay rights (she has a transgender child).

But when push comes to shove, she almost always votes the Republican party line, which now means the Tea Party line.  On the government shutdown and impending debt ceiling limit, she has shown no inclination to deviate from the absolutist position of the GOP extremists.  Basically, she gives a nice false face to her party’s destructive intransigence.

It’s time to replace her.  If the Democrats get off their asses and find a decent candidate, it might actually happen.

Rubio: All In with the Tea Party Taliban

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I had been wondering what had happened to Marco Rubio since he helped Texas Senator Ted Cruz throw gasoline on the Republican Party’s fast-shrinking “big tent” and set it ablaze.  I know, he really just wanted to blow up the US government and maybe the entire economy as well, but the biggest casualty of this disastrous game now is pretty clearly the GOP itself.

The latest polls released on October 10 shook political Washington like an earthquake, showing public blame for the government shutdown and threatened financial catastrophe landing squarely where it belongs—on the Republican party—and popular support for the GOP at a historic low.  Suddenly, John Boehner and Eric Cantor stopped making hypocritical claims about how it was all really President Obama’s fault and seemed to realize that they were playing a bad hand that Ted Cruz and his groupies like Rubio had dealt them.

Through it all, the bad boys who set the blaze were oddly absent from the scene.  Rubio, in particular, has been AWOL and appeared to be avoiding the media, which seemed to have forgotten about his role in creating this ridiculous crisis.  Media attention focused on the adverse impact of the Republicans’ self-immolation on Cruz’s political ambitions, and on the abrupt plunge in support for Cruz’s other acolyte, Senator Mike Lee, in his home state of Utah (!), where it turns out the federal government is by far the largest employer.

I thought maybe Rubio had become the artful dodger and—realizing this was not a good time to be seen carrying around explosives–had  decided to try to put some distance between himself and Cruz’s Tea Party Crew.  But it appears that is not the case.

Today, Marco Rubio is a featured speaker at the Values Voter Summit as it convenes in Washington, DC.  The line-up of speakers is a virtual Who’s Who of the Tea Party luminaries who engineered the sorry spectacle we have been witnessing:  Ted Cruz, Ed Meese, Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, even crazy Allen West—the list goes on and on.  So it would appear that Marco Rubio has indeed gone all in with the gang most responsible for creating this unspeakable mess.

In case you’re not familiar with the Values Voter Summit, it was developed as a political vehicle for ultra-conservative Christian organizations like the Family Research Council to influence the political arena and the Republican Party in particular.  It has become a rival forum to the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) after the latter in 2011 included the gay Republican group GOProud and the anti-gay religious groups walked out.  Now it is a virtual Tea Party convention.  This year’s speaker roster includes Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, who has been advising Vladimir Putin and the Russian parliament on anti-gay legislation in Russia.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this could be a window of real vulnerability for Marco Rubio.  If I were on the Florida Democratic Committee, I would be commissioning TV and print ads holding Rubio accountable for his role in creating the shutdown crisis and highlighting the extremist views of the political company he’s keeping, which indeed appear identical to Rubio’s own views.  I know it’s a long time until he’s up for re-election and voters have poor memories, but now is the time to brand him with the responsibility for his actions when the public is receptive to that message.

I’ll even draft the bumper sticker:  SHUT DOWN MARCO RUBIO!  I’d gladly put one on my car!

UPDATE POSTSCRIPT:

The Values Voter Summit held its presidential straw poll as usual, and unsurprisingly Ted Cruz blew away the field with 42 percent of the votes.  Marco Rubio finished far back in the field at number five, with only 5 percent of the votes.  Looks he will need to start hustling just to keep his gig as Cruz’s warm-up act.  Must be tough to be thrown over for the likes of Mike Lee.

The Unbearable Lightness of Marco Rubio

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More than any other Florida politician, Senator Marco Rubio has made himself the face of opposition to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare—yes, they are the same thing).   Alas for him, he had to do this by playing second fiddle in Texas senator Ted Cruz’s grandstanding not-exactly-filibuster just before the Republicans shut down the federal government.

There was Rubio playing the friendly face-licking Labrador to Cruz’s droopy-eyed alpha-dog bloodhound—a mere sidekick to the firebrand who has replaced him as the GOP’s Rising Star and Great Latino Hope.  The irony!

No less an irony was the fact that the two states they represent—Texas and Florida—have the highest percentage of residents without health insurance in the country, and the Latino demographic they pretend to represent are the least covered of all.

It seems only yesterday that Rubio was being touted as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, and—after Romney went down hard in November—was featured on the cover of Time as the GOP’s “savior” and likely next presidential candidate.

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Rubio’s meteoric rise has been based on two qualities.  Foremost is his ineffable cuteness.  He has that sweet, clean-cut, well-scrubbed look of a young Mormon missionary who shows up at your door to try to persuade you to believe incredible things.  (In fact, he was—briefly—a Mormon.)

Equally important, he has a soothing Reaganesque knack for convincing the very people his policies would screw over that they really should support him.  You know—social security was fine for our deserving parents, but we really shouldn’t expect to have anything like that.  He doesn’t yell, he lulls, and if you don’t pay attention to the actual words he’s saying, it all sounds kind of reasonable, especially coming out of that adorable face.

Rubio adopted all the correct views to make himself the darling of Florida’s Republican right-wing and caught the 2010 Tea Party wave that swept him into the Senate.  But he really had no particular accomplishments to show except for getting elected.  In an effort to remedy that—and to try to address the GOP’s dismal standing with Latino voters (other than Cuban-Americans)—Rubio became one of the Gang of Eight senators from both parties tasked with drafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill. He even came around to backing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and he quickly emerged as the Republican spokesman for the bill—upstaging senior GOP senators like John McCain.

Lo and behold, in June the bill was approved by the full Senate, though Rubio’s new BFF Ted Cruz voted against it (as did the other insurgent Republican princeling, Rand Paul).  Once it was sent to the House, however, the Republican caucus—dominated by the Tea Party Taliban—hated the legislation, and it has languished ever since.  Rubio’s star began to wane with the party’s right wing as Cruz’s rose in the heavens, and Rubio quietly moved to the background on immigration reform.  Which brings us to his role in Cruz’s sorta-kinda-filibuster.

To be fair, Rubio has always opposed the ACA, but it’s hard to see his eagerness to act as Cruz’s wingman as anything other than an attempt to re-ingratiate himself with the Tea Party that put him in office in the first place.

Rubio’s polling numbers are now in negative territory—a big fall since a year ago when he was riding high.  It’s certainly too soon to count him out, however.  He has another three years of his senate term—plenty of time to decide whether he’ll run for reelection or another office.  It’s also hard to predict how his recent wriggling will play out with voters, and whether popular blame for the shutdown—which seems to be falling heaviest on Republicans (and rightly so)—will fall on Rubio as well.  In 2011, he voted against raising the debt ceiling.  If the Republicans do precipitate a catastrophic fiscal crisis by failing to raise the debt ceiling this month, Rubio has clearly put himself among the crowd that will have caused the disaster.

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