Despite being a reflexive interventionist and reliable advocate for meddling almost everywhere in the world, Rubio hasn’t been quite aggressive enough for some hard-liners:
Rubio—now a member of the Senate’s top foreign affairs committees who was positioning himself as one of his party’s more hawkish members—cast a vote against the use of force in Syria [in 2013].
“I didn’t agree with that vote,” Abrams said. “It would have been better for the United States to make those strikes, and come back if need be and do more. I thought it was important to get the president to start acting again. I agreed it wasn’t enough, but you have to start somewhere.”
It’s strange that Rubio’s vote against attacking Syria in 2013 is presented here as a weakness, since it was both the politically smart thing to do at the time and it happened to be the right position (though Rubio took it for the wrong reasons). Rubio opposed the attack because it was supposedly going to be too small, and because his preferred form of meddling in Syria was to throw more weapons into the civil war. It is the one and only thing in Rubio’s foreign policy record as a senator that he can cite as proof that he isn’t completely mindless in his advocacy for U.S. military intervention, and that is something he has to have as a presidential candidate if he doesn’t want to be perceived as a younger Lindsey Graham.
As far as his ideological allies are concerned, though, his vote on Syria two years ago was a troubling deviation that bothers them, and they are the ones whose “disappointment” the reporters are interested in relaying. Rubio seems to have learned his “lesson” since the Syria debate in 2013, because he has made sure for more aggressive measures across the board on every issue since then. He backs the war on ISIS, wants to give the president a completely unlimited authorization for that war, vehemently rejects the nuclear deal, wants to send more weapons into Ukraine and Syria, thinks the U.S. should be doing more to help the Saudis in Yemen, and denounces normalization with Cuba. If neoconservatives and hard-liners had any reason to be disappointed with Rubio two years ago, he has gone out of his way to give them everything they could want since then. That has turned him into little more than their factional candidate, and it may help explain why he continues to receive roughly the same amount of support from voters that he had when his campaign began.