Paul Singer is one of the Republican party’s big donors, so his decision to desert Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and throw his support to Marco Rubio is a big deal for two reasons. One, it’s yet another nail in the coffin of Bush’s moribund campaign. Two, it’s a big boost to Rubio and a sign that the Republican establishment views him as the legitimate candidate in a field of nutburgers.
What Singer’s decision doesn’t do is push the GOP to be more gay friendly. And that’s one of Singer’s main goals. As the father of a gay son, Singer is the force behind the American Unity Fund, a group of fat cats that want Republicans to enter the 21st century on the side of freedom and equality.
Which raises the question: How does Marco Rubio fit into that picture? Based on his history, not at all.
Rubio has a solid antigay record. As a Florida state representative, he opposed letting gay couples take in foster kids, because kids “shouldn’t be forced to be part of a social experiment.” He provided robocalls to the National Organization for Marriage condemning marriage equality.
Rubio has been aggressively courting religious right figures and happily rubbing elbows with the likes of Kim Davis’s attorney, Mathew Staver. At the same time, Rubio has tried half-heartedly to stake out a “moderate” position on LGBTQ. He’s done so largely by acknowledging that we’re human but not quite as human as Christians.
Rubio has shown some, shall we say, ideological flexibility in the past. He was famously for immigration reform before turning against it. Perhaps Singer’s green will make Rubio more lavender.
Or perhaps Singer has such low expectations of the GOP that he’s smitten by Rubio’s rhetoric, even if the senator’s record flies in the face of his language.
Or maybe in the end, as important as gay issues are, financial issues are what matter most to Singer. As a hedge fund manager, Singer may be throwing his support behind the Republican candidate who is a) most likely to win and b) most likely to give hedge fund managers a bunch of tax breaks–or at least maintain the ones they already enjoy. While the jury is out on option A, Rubio’s economic plan fits snugly into option B.
Whatever the reason, Rubio is not the change agent that Singer purports to seek. He’s a younger version of the same old homophobia that has made Republicans a punch line for under-30 voters. Singer’s money will come in handy, of course. But already, Rubio is being labeled a sell-out by hardcore conservatives who hate Singer. Chief among them is NOM’s Brian Brown, for whom Rubio once taped those robocalls. Now Brown is threatening to run ads trashing Rubio as a traitor to the cause.
Rubio already has a problem with the base, who view him as untrustworthy because of his now-abandoned immigration stand. He could end up reviving that problem because of his association with Singer. All of which will make the primary season all that much more fun to watch.