On a recent Saturday night in Daytona Beach — with a thousand or so bikers exercising their unalienable right to be extremely noisy in the streets — Marco Rubio, the new ultraconservative poster boy running for the U.S. Senate in Florida, offered the Volusia County Republican Party a carefully calibrated, and rather compelling, celebration of freedom. He spoke about his Cuban heritage. His parents had escaped Castro. “It is possible to lose your freedom. You can have your family business taken over by ‘the people.’ You can lose your country. My parents did,” he said, while carefully adding that he wasn’t saying that would happen here.
The assembled Republicans seemed to ignore the caveat: they were the sort of people who are convinced that we are well down the road toward losing our country. Their local leaders had gone to Washington for the Sept. 12 tea-party march. The winner of the Republican of the Year award announced his daily fidelity to Glenn Beck’s talk show. They described themselves, more than once, as “fighters for freedom.”
The Republican Senate primary in Florida, between Rubio and Governor Charlie Crist, will receive a great deal of national attention in the coming months.