This evening 5,000 conservative activists and voters descended on a South Carolina venue in Columbia organized by Conservative Review, to hear various political speakers and candidates leading up to the long awaited presidential primary.
With the polls fluctuating and the state seemingly up for grabs, talking to 5,000 motivated people who might knock on doors on your behalf seems like a great idea.
Ted Cruz volunteer, Raz Shafer, said of the event that "the crowd was made up of strong conservative activists and voters from across SC. It was energetic and polite. While I'd estimate that at least half the crowd had Cruz signs (even more had stickers) Carson received a warm reception and multiple standing ovations. Many of the voters I talked to were undecided and looking to hear from Cruz, Carson and Rubio in order to inform their decisions. Rubio had a number of strong supporters at the rally that were clearly came to cheer for their guy. I can only imagine that they were incredibly disappointed."
With all of the electricity in the air, it was therefore surprising when Senator Marco Rubio, candidate for president currently polling 3rd in South Carolina and in a brutal death match with Ted Cruz, cancelled his appearance, by some account a mere 5 minutes before his scheduled time.
At first I took took to twitter to get the general idea, and was told by some that Rubio had escaped a sandbagging at the hands of Cruz fans, and by others that he had tucked tail and ran and hid in a quivering puddle of his own urine.
These two extremes seemed far fetched and, being a resident of South Carolina and knowing some folks involved in the event, I reached out to an event organizer who gave me the real scoop on condition that I not use his name because let's face it: at least 50,000 screaming fans of any of the other candidates will call him a paid shill for not declaring Rubio the France of presidential candidates.
So my first question was, obviously, did Rubio really tuck tail only 5 minutes before his appearance?
"No," was the immediate response. "He was scheduled at 8 and [after an hour of trying to make it work] called at 8:45 saying it wouldn't work. We had begun adjusting the schedule."
The organizer then went on to explain that Rubio had been scheduled earlier in the week and that Conservative Review was very much looking forward to his visit. Responding to rumors that the crowd was decidedly anti-Rubio which would've been a sandbag for the candidate, the organizer said that Rubio's campaign was sent 500 tickets to the event and plenty of his supporters were in the crowd. He went on to say that had the crowd turned against Rubio, Conservative Review staff would have pushed back on them and reminded them that this is an opportunity to hear from all candidates, not to attack the candidate you don't like.
According to Breitbart.com, Rubio's surrogates also skipped out on the event because they were super scared. (emphasis mine)
Rubio’s campaign offered an explanation. “FYI – Because of a delay in today’s schedule, Marco is unable to make the event below tonight. Senator Sen. Tim Scott and Congressman Rep. Trey Gowdy attended to represent the campaign. Tomorrow’s schedule remains unchanged,” the Rubio campaign said in a statement.
But Rubio surrogates Scott and Gowdy also skipped out on the event.
Organizers had previously tried to secure a spot for Jeb Bush who it turned out was unable to make the event. When Jeb's campaign asked if they could send radio host Jay Sekulow as a surrogate, organizers informed his campaign that they were not allowing surrogates to speak on behalf of candidates that don't attend.
As it became clear that Rubio wouldn't make it on time, his campaign staff offered for surrogates Trey Gowdy or Tim Scott to speak on his behalf. But unfortunately, as the precedent had already been set with Bush, CR organizers knew they'd be stepping in a big mess if they permitted Rubio to use surrogates within a week of telling Bush that he couldn't.
Far from also "skipping" the event, organizers actually spoke directly to both Gowdy & Scott who were ready to appear on Rubio's behalf, and both understood the position Conservative Review had taken.
Breitbart has since offered updates to their post to reflect this.
CR did offer to extend the entire show to accommodate him, but he had other obligations that made that solution unworkable.
So there you have it. Despite the efforts of some to make this something it's not, Marco Rubio couldn't make an event because it's mere days before the SC primary and his schedule ended up causing a delay that caused him to miss it. And this was known well before "five minutes" of his scheduled appearance time.
This is otherwise known as the most common thing to happen, ever.