Says George LeMieux "even compared Marco Rubio to Barack Obama."
Adam Hasner on Friday, June 10th, 2011 in an Internet ad
Adam Hasner says George LeMieux compared Marco Rubio to Barack Obama
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner is attacking GOP opponent George LeMieux by invoking two names likely to displease conservative primary voters.
Barack Obama and Charlie Crist.
In an Internet ad released June 10, 2011, Hasner tries to link LeMieux to Crist -- the former governor who left the GOP while trying to win a Senate seat in 2010. Marco Rubio, a former House speaker who served as a state legislator from 2000 to 2008 and is now a national Republican star, won that seat.
The ad shows a photo of Crist and then states:
Defended President Obama's Stimulus As "Helpful to Florida"
Fought For Taxpayer Funded Bailout Of Big Sugar
Architect Of Obama-Style Cap And Trade Plan For Florida
Falsely Attacked Marco Rubio
Even Compared Marco Rubio To Barack Obama
Charlie Crist -- Right?
As the word "wrong" appears, the camera zooms out on the picture of Crist. There is LeMieux, whispering in Crist's ear. The ad finishes -- "Get to know the Real George LeMieux."
The goal of the message is clear enough: Paint a portrait of LeMieux -- Crist's former chief of staff who was later appointed by Crist to serve in the U.S. Senate -- as an Obama-loving Crist buddy who criticized Florida's GOP superstar, Rubio.
But is it accurate? For this Truth-O-Meter item we will examine the claim Hasner made that LeMieux "even compared Marco Rubio to Barack Obama." In a related Truth-O-Meter item, we're checking another claim that LeMieux "falsely attacked Marco Rubio."
Hasner's ad cited a Nov. 17, 2009, St. Petersburg Times article as the source for LeMieux comparing Rubio to Obama. Back then, LeMieux was supporting Crist over Rubio. And back then, Crist was still running as a Republican.
LeMieux critiqued Rubio in an item posted to the Times' online blog, The Buzz.
From The Buzz: "Being governor means you have to make choices. And you have to make decisions," LeMieux said, heading into a GOP lunch at the U.S. Capitol. "It's very easy to be a critic and the speaker now is not in office. He wasn't there when the state was facing the challenges of the huge recession and the stimulus. He didn't have to vote on that. All of the folks that were in his administration voted for the stimulus money. And I suspect if he were there, he could vote for it. This is just like President Obama being able to be against the war in Iraq because he didn't have to vote on it. There's a lot of parallels to draw between Speaker Rubio and President Obama in the way they are running their race and in their ability to throw bombs without ever having to lead because they are out of office."
LeMieux was arguing that it was easy for Rubio, who left the Legislature in 2008, to criticize Crist for taking stimulus money when Rubio was no longer in the Legislature -- just like it was easy for Obama to oppose going to war against Iraq because he wasn't in the U.S. Senate or White House then. (Obama was in the Illinois Legislature when Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in 2003.)
LeMieux isn't comparing Rubio and Obama on a stance or an issue here (like they both supported cap-and-trade, or something like that). He is making a general point that it's easy for candidates to later oppose something they didn't have to vote on.
None of that is made clear in the ad.
But that's not the only problem when considering this claim.
"George endorsed Marco the day after Charlie left the Republican Party and aggressively campaigned for Marco in the General Election," LeMieux campaign manager Brian Seitchik e-mailed us June 13. LeMieux hosted a fundraiser for Rubio, campaigned with him and introduced him at events, Seitchik wrote.
(Note: Crist left the GOP on April 29. The next day LeMieux issued this statement: "I am saddened that my friend, Governor Crist, has decided to leave the Republican Party. Our friendship runs deep, but my commitment to the principles of the Republican Party runs deeper. I cannot walk down the path he has chosen. ... I will support our Republican nominee and will continue to do everything I can both in Florida and across the country to increase the number of Republicans in the United States Senate." A formal endorsement of Rubio didn't come until July, however, according to The Hill which cited the conservative blog, The Shark Tank.)
There are other examples of LeMieux supporting Rubio.
On July 12, 2010, The Buzz reported that LeMieux's PAC gave $2,400 to Rubio's campaign. The conservative blog the Shark Tank reported on the same day that LeMieux endorsed Rubio -- see a video of LeMieux here calling Rubio a "good conservative candidate."
And LeMieux campaigned for Rubio at a few Central Florida stops -- including The Villages retirement community -- the Palm Beach Post reported Oct 7. At one of events, LeMieux called Rubio '"the brightest star of our generation in politics — and not just in Florida, nationwide,'" the Post wrote.
Lastly, we have to point out that simply comparing Rubio, a Republican, to Obama, a Democrat, doesn't have to be a bad thing. The New Republic, for instance, called Rubio the "Republican Obama" in a February 2010 article. And a national conservative figure, Richard Land, was quoted in 2010 talking up a Rubio run for president in 2012, noting that Rubio would have "more experience than Obama had" when Obama ran for president. (PolitiFact Florida rated that claim Barely True.)
On the whole, this claim is puzzling. Let's again look at the text of the ad, which starts by linking LeMieux to three issues -- the federal stimulus package, Big Sugar and cap and trade. Then the ad abruptly switches to general statements about Rubio saying that LeMieux falsely attacked Rubio and "compared Rubio to Barack Obama."
LeMieux didn't compare Rubio and Obama on an issue such as those listed at the start of the ad -- he said they both used a familiar campaign tactic, throwing "bombs" about something they didn't have to vote on themselves. The ad provides no explanation for how he compared the two politicians and neglects to note that LeMieux supported Rubio's campaign once Crist left the GOP.
We rate this statement Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.