Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) packed his water bottle and jetted off to the Promised Land this weekend where he plans to visit both banks of the River Jordan in his quest for the Holy Grail: his party’s presidential nomination.
Such pilgrimages to the Holy Land have become required stops for politicians with serious White House ambitions. George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made pre-nomination trips along with crowds of rivals and also-rans who never even made it past their parties’ primaries.
There are many advantages to such trips. The candidate will claim firsthand knowledge of the region, its issues and its leaders. Second, the farther one goes from home the easier it is to get publicity back home, especially if there are some photo ops with recognizable leaders and landmarks. And of no less importance, it is a good way to impress wealthy backers to dig deep to help finance the campaign; in fact, it is common to bring some of them along for motivation.
Rubio’s trip is paid in full by taxpayers since it is billed as an official Codel –Congressional Delegation — for a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. It is his second visit to the Jewish state, first to Jordan.
If he couldn’t upstage the President with his response to the State of the Union address last week, he’ll at least try to get to Israel before the President arrives on March 20 and Secretary of State John Kerry before that.
Rubio is scheduled to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
Look for Rubio to use the Jerusalem stage to take some pot shots at Obama and watch how Bibi responds since he virtually endorsed the last Republican presidential contender to visit him and saw his political credibility take a big hit. But was it enough to stop the PM from meddling in the next American election?