Cave Questions Why Critics of Conservative Marco Rubio Aren't Getting Through

On Friday Miami-based reporter Damien Cave reported on the Florida race for Senate in "A Candidate Tugs Unabashedly on the Heartstrings." That tugging candidate would be conservative Republican Marco Rubio, who holds a double-digit lead over Republican turned independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek. The condescending Cave sneaked in opposition talking points while emphasizing Rubio's emotional appeal as opposed to his conservative policies.

Marco Rubio's latest television ad features soaring music and tributes in Spanish to what he describes in speeches as the "go-getter" ethos that defines his family and the United States.

"My parents came to this country and worked very hard and sacrificed a lot so that I could live the American dream," he says in the ad now appearing across Florida. "Unfortunately that dream is threatened by the actions of some politicians in Washington."

Cave dismisses Rubio's policy positions, attributing his success to emotional appeals to the American dream.

Mr. Rubio may have risen to prominence with a pledge of fiscal responsibility, which helped secure his conservative base, but in a state where unemployment shows no sign of dropping, and the real estate market remains grim, he now seems to be surging in part because his campaign tugs the heartstrings.

Cave actually forwards complaints from Democrats that Rubio is not...using enough negative ads!

Mr. Rubio's opponents - who have been in the trenches, battling for Democrats and independents with more negative ads - describe his approach as a milquetoast throwback.

"Marco Rubio does not have a patent or exclusivity rights on the American Dream!" said Adam Sharon, a spokesman for Mr. Meek, in an e-mail. "Also, Kendrick is focused on strengthening the middle class in Florida, whereas Crist and Rubio promote tax breaks for the wealthy."

Cave, whose reporting often reveals a deep-set suspicion of Republican motives, pondered why the Democratic talking points weren't getting more traction, conveniently enabling him to repeat them.

Another detail that has surprised Mr. Rubio's critics is the degree to which he has sidestepped criticism of his own financial management. Early accusations that he misused Republican Party credit cards - spending money on trips and personal grooming during and after his time as speaker of the Florida House - appears to have done his image only minimal damage.

Many voters do not seem to be bothered, polls suggest, by the contrast between the big salary he has earned as a lawyer over the years ($1.2 million in total from 2004 to 2008) and his personal debts, which deflated his net worth to less than $10,000 at the end of 2008.

Now that Mr. Rubio has a clear lead, these issues may be more likely to come up. The three candidates debate for the second time next Wednesday in Orlando.

But Alex Burgos, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign, said most Florida voters could probably relate to debts tied to houses and education.

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