On his way to becoming a Republican superstar, Marco Rubio endured a bruising Senate campaign where his ethics, his integrity and even his commitment to conservative principles were under almost daily assault.
Consider what one of his most vocal critics said about him:
- "Rubio has proved he is just another typical politician who uses his public office for personal gain and only comes clean once caught."
- "With each passing day, voters are beginning to see the real Speaker Rubio, a tax raising Miami lobbyist-politician who has used public office for personal gain and political donations as a personal slush fund."
- "This Marco Rubio is a wheeling and dealing Miami lobbyist and politician, always trying to scam the system for his personal benefit."
- "Instead of answering all of the many questions surrounding his questionable spending habits, Speaker Rubio instead continues to do the Rubio hustle and refuses to release his tax returns in a timely manner."
Harsh words. Personal attacks. And all of them, and many more, made in 2010 by Andrea Saul - the person who now speaks for Mitt Romney as the national press secretary for the Romney campaign.
Back then, of course, Saul had a different job - Communications Director for Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who was running against Rubio for the Republican Senate nomination. She was speaking on behalf of Governor Crist and she did her job aggressively, getting harsher and harsher as Crist slid further in polls.
Her words were almost as harsh as some of Crist's campaign ads, which directly accused Rubio of violating the law by using Republican political donations "on his lavish lifestyle." Those ads were produced were made by none other than Stuart Stevens, who is now a top adviser to the Romney campaign.
That Crist anti-Rubio ad has been taken off Youtube, but it is described in a posting at Factcheck.org
It's occupational hazard for people in the political communications business: Your words don't really belong to you. You speak on behalf of the boss. When the boss changes, so do your public pronouncements.
These days for example, Saul defends Romney for his delay in releasing and filing his latest tax return. When she worked Crist, she savaged Rubio for failing to release his income tax returns in a timely manner, suggesting he was trying to hide something.
"Instead of answering all of the many questions surrounding his questionable spending habits, Speaker Rubio instead continues to do the Rubio hustle and refuses to release his tax returns in a timely manner," Saul was quoted saying in a March 28, 2010 Tampa Bay Times story. "Voters in this primary deserve to know the truth, and they deserve to hear it straight from Speaker Rubio."
When I sent Saul an email asking if she regretted making those attacks or whether she would like to take back anything she said while working for Crist, I received a terse response from Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho.
"Andrea left the Crist campaign when he became an Independent," Gitcho emailed.
That's right. Ultimately Saul quit her job because the Crist campaign's attacks on Rubio failed to stop his rise and facing near-certain defeat in the Republican primary, Crist decided to run as an independent.
But before Crist left the party, his loyal spokeswoman emerged as a fiery and persistent critic of all things Marco Rubio.
That's why some of the harshest things you will find said about Marco Rubio in the public record were said by the person who now speaks for Mitt Romney.