Posted on | October 14, 2011 | 57 Comments
My exclusive yesterday — sources telling me that Marco Rubio’s pro-Romney chief of staff Cesar Conda worked behind-the-scenes to persuade GOP leaders in Florida to move their primary to January – gets an official denial via Javier Manjarres at The Shark Tank:
“Don’t you think if something like that had happened, you would have heard something? 100% fiction, they just made it up out of thin air . . . Ok, BTW, if this were true, it means you got scooped in you own state!!!! Hahaha”
He’s a joker, that Marco. But as to me scooping Javier, this story just “fell in my lap,” as they say. The various and overlapping alliances that define Florida GOP politics — nearly as Byzantine nowadays as South Carolina — make it difficult to prove stuff like this, especially when the sources could lose their jobs if it were known they were talking to reporters.
So Rubio’s denial is a fact, just as the statements by my sources are facts. I report both and, as Allahpundit said, “R.S. McCain reports, you decide.”
UPDATE: Allahpundit likewise got a denial:
A source close to Rubio e-mailed us to note that Florida’s primary date is chosen by committee. He emphatically denies that either Cesar Conda or Rubio himself influenced the process.
Just got off the phone with various sources and will add some helpful background in a few minutes. But as I said to one source, “This is why I didn’t bother to give Rubio’s office a call yesterday — of course they’ll deny it. I knew that, and I wasn’t alleging anything criminal. There’s no law against people in politics exercising influence, and the question of motive is always a matter of speculation in stuff like this.”
UPDATE II: When a politician publicly accuses me of making up a story “out of thin air,” additional reporting is required. And inevitably, my need to protect sources makes it difficult to explain how sources know what they know, because to invoke the credibility of the source — well, a good reporter never burns his sources, you see.
Let’s be clear about two things:
- Marco Rubio has been an outspoken advocate of an early date for the Florida primary since at least 2007. Floridians have complained for years that they have become an afterthought in the primary schedule. Florida’s influence was once decisive, as in 1972 when George Wallace’s stomping of Ed Muskie in the Democratic primary pretty much put an end to Muskie’s front-runner status.
- Nearly everybody in the Florida GOP agrees with Rubio. As I said in my American Spectator column this morning, “The early-primary madness gripping Florida Republicans has been well-nigh universal for months.”
One of my Florida sources first became suspicious about the early-primary madness after seeing a Politico article about it in February. The ostensible motive for the move to the Jan. 31 date — the exoteric rationale, as it were — has always been about “making Florida count.” But once you examine that pretext in the cold light of logic, it’s doesn’t make sense. Florida would have counted as much or more if they’d held their primary in March as they will byh having it in January, and they’ll be penalized half their delegates to the national convention for violating RNC rules.
If the exoteric rational does not pass the smell test, deductive logic suggests the existence of an esoteric motive — a hidden agenda, as it were — known only to insiders. As one source put it, the basic idea of having an early Florida primary involved the notion that, by forcing an early decision in the GOP presidential campaign, there would be more time to unite the party behind the eventual nominee, and thus have a big group hug at the Tampa convention in August. All the bruises would be healed, money would be pouring in, and then, Onward to Victory in November!
Maybe you buy into that argument — which has been made often by Cesar Conda, my sources tell me — and you can believe that without regard to any suspicion of a sinister conspiracy to anoint Mitt Romney. But Conda’s known support for Romney permits such a suspicion, and then there is the “Question the Timing” issue.
If the special committee that decide Florida would violate RNC rules was determined to do so — and this intent was being reported as early as eight months ago – why was the decision delayed until after the state GOP straw poll Sept. 24 in Orlando? And why would a very credible source have named Cesar Conda specifically as a behind-the-scenes advocate of that move?
As I say, this wasn’t a story I had to dig up. It just fell in my lap. I accept the official denial, but I don’t blame my sources for being suspicious.
UPDATE III: The February story in Politico:
By Alexander Burns
Defenders of Florida’s early primary date have a new ally with some serious clout: Marco Rubio.
The freshman GOP senator told The Palm Beach Post that Florida shouldn’t move its primary from January to later in the presidential election season, despite entreaties from national Republicans to abide by the RNC-mandated schedule.
“If the Republican Party wants to pay for the elections in Florida, they can have them any day they want,” Rubio said. “But as long as the voters of Florida are going to pay for this election, it should be on the most meaningful day possible. An election in late January costs the same as an election in April, but it’s a lot more meaningful.”
Rubio, who’s viewed as a potential candidate for national office down the line, was careful to say that Florida didn’t intend to leapfrog traditional early states like Iowa and New Hampshire — even though Florida’s primary date as currently scheduled would do exactly that.
“Those are established states and I don’t think Florida desires to get ahead of any of them,” Rubio said. . . .
Read the whole thing. But why did Rubio present the choice as being between January and April, when the actual RNC-approved guidelines would have permitted Florida to hold its primary March 6?
One of the problems with quoting anonymous sources is that they’re anonymous for a reason. If your story is challenged, and your source could get fired if their identity were known, the requirements of confidentially prevent you from saying, “Well, here’s who says it’s true,” with the source’s reputation as evidence of credibility. So I’m on the hook, and Rubio’s denial is a matter of record, and I’m sure we’ll all be laughing and having beers together at the Republican convention in Florida in August.
As I said to Javier Manjarres on Twitter:
Which means (a) it’s more essential than ever that we rally the conservative movement behind Herman Cain, and (b) I’ll need enough travel money to keep me on the campaign trail all the way to the convention in Tampa, so I can collect my free beer from Marco.