'I like Ivanka': Marco Rubio sweats over rumoured Trump Senate challenge

Photograph: Erica Werner/AP
Photograph: Erica Werner/AP  

The last time Marco Rubio looked this uncomfortable in the national spotlight, he was stuck on robotic repeat in a Republican debate, being pummelled by Chris Christie.

Or maybe it was when he lunged for a bottle of water as he sweated his way through a response to Barack Obama's State of the Union address, back in 2013.

Either way, on Sunday morning Florida's senior Republican senator squirmed again as he was grilled on the possibility of a primary challenge by Ivanka Trump, the ex-president's oldest daughter, in 2022.

"How seriously do you take Ivanka Trump as a potential opponent?" Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked, citing speculation over the former "first daughter's" personal political ambitions following her purchase of property in Miami with her husband, Jared Kushner.

"Well, I, I, I don't really get into the parlour games of Washington," Rubio replied, clearly wishing his potential challenger was called anything other than Trump.

"When you decide to run for re-election in a state like Florida, you have to be prepared for a competitive race, you run it like a competitive race, so that's what I'm preparing to run, a very competitive race against a tough opponent.

"I don't own the Senate seat, it doesn't belong to me. If I want to be back in the US Senate I have to earn that every six years."

Wallace pressed on, attempting to get the floundering Rubio, who has something of a love-hate relationship with Donald Trump, to at least acknowledge the name of his possible challenger.

"I like Ivanka, and we worked very well together on issues, and she's a US…" Rubio said, trailing off then pivoting swiftly to a list of his perceived successes "for the people of Florida" since he was elected in 2010.

The interview ended soon after, a relieved Rubio able to avoid any further reference to his new Miami neighbour.

Scholars of Rubio's previous encounters with Ivanka Trump will have noted this was far from his first moment of awkwardness. In June 2017 he was photographed trying and failing to give her a hug in Washington, the image inevitably going viral.

Rubio tried to make light of that episode, promising a full investigation by the Senate intelligence committee into why it was "blowing up Twitter".

In 2016, Rubio ran for the Republican presidential nomination ultimately won by Donald Trump. The senator squared up to the property developer, evidently unfamiliar with the old political saw, variously and wrongly attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain or George Bernard Shaw, about why it is never a good idea to wrestle with a pig.

You both get dirty, the saying goes, but the pig likes it. Rubio and Trump ended up exchanging insults about the size of their genitals.

Rubio's last robust primary was an all-round chastening experience. Not only did he fail to make much of a mark but during a campaign event in Iowa, the senator also beaned a small child with a football.


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