Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is not taking any chances with less than 500 days until he is up for reelection.
In an interview over the weekend, he slammed Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a potential Democratic challenger in that race who is widely regarded as the most likely to win her party’s nomination. He compared her to a group of House Democrats known as “the Squad,” which includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.).
The first part of that argument, linking Demings to socialism, is part of Rubio and his party’s broader strategy of portraying Democrats as sympathetic to the ideology — an easy charge to level against Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a democratic socialist. Rubio argued last week that Hispanic voters were sympathetic to a message opposing socialism because they “know what life is like in another country.” So, the theory goes, tying Democrats to socialism smooths the path in states like Florida, where many immigrants have fled socialist regimes such as Cuba.
This particular attack on Demings, however, appears to be based on her unquestioning loyalty to the Squad — a charge that doesn’t really hold up.
The squad’s four members (the other two are Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.)) were all elected to the House last year. Since then, all four of them have voted in the same way approximately 1,000 times.
Democrats currently serving in the House who voted on any of those bills agreed with the Squad 94.3 percent of the time. Surprisingly, Republicans in the House voted with the Squad an average of 27% of the time.
On more than half of the votes on which all five cast ballots, two Republicans agreed with the Squad. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), for example, switched parties in 2019.
It’s worth noting that two Republicans with Cuban ancestors voted with the Squad more than the Republican average: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), whose parents are from Cuba, and Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (Fla.). Diaz-Balart voted with them about 37% of the time, and Gimenez voted with them 31% of the time. Pelosi (D-Calif.) fell short of her party’s average, voting with the Squad 91.2 percent of the time. It was a mutual feeling. Members of the Squad supported Pelosi 90 percent of the time. The Democratic Party’s overall approval rating was 97.5 percent.
Rubio inadvertently demonstrates his desire to have it both ways. Demings is allied with the socialist wing of the party by voting with the Squad 94 percent of the time (we actually have it slightly higher than 95 percent), but he is also hopelessly left-wing for voting with Pelosi. However, voting with the caucus leader and voting with a subset of the caucus are clearly different things, even if there is a lot of overlap.
When we compare how frequently members voted with Pelosi versus the Squad since 2019, an intriguing dynamic emerges. Democratic members of the House voted more frequently with Pelosi by about 3.2 percentage points on average. The margin was narrower among Republicans: about 1.3 points. That is, an average Republican member of the House was more likely than an average Democratic member to vote with the Squad over Pelosi. To be clear, Republicans did not usually vote with either party. And, in comparison to Democrats, Republicans are more likely to vote with the Squad than with Pelosi. After all, Pelosi defines the Democratic Party line, which Republicans categorically reject.
However, if you want to argue that agreement with the Squad is a sign of socialist sympathies, it is slightly inconvenient that while 13% of the Democratic caucus was more likely to vote with the Squad than Pelosi, 31% of the Republican caucus was.