Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”
“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.
“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”
Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.
The criticisms from someone of Rubio’s stature in the Republican Party comes as polls show a near-even race, albeit with Gingrich surging.
Rubio plans to stay neutral in the race. He’s a potential running mate whom both candidates would love to have on the ballot. And he’s gaining iconic status among many national Republicans who see him as a face of the future in a nation that’s growing more Latino.
Miami, Rubio's hometown, is a key battleground. The candidates are all wooing the Cuban-exile community here, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the Republican vote in the largest county of the nation’s largest swing state.
Already, about 54,000 early ballots have been cast in Miami Dade, where nearly three-quarters of the Republicans are Hispanic.
Rubio’s statement was fueled by the explosive, partisan debate over immigration, a key issue this election season as both parties aggressively court the Hispanic vote.
Democrats and liberals have tried to paint the Republican candidates as anti-immigrant or even anti-Hispanic for opposing legislation such as the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants – mainly college students and soldiers.
Rubio, who frets that the DREAM Act gives too much “amnesty” to a broader class of immigrants, and other Republicans have accused Democrats of playing rank ethnic politics.
So when Gingrich’s radio spot described Romney as “the most anti-immigrant candidate,” Rubio and others felt he not only crossed the line – he was adopting liberal criticisms.