marco rubio phone
U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) holds up his mobile phone during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington May 20, 2015. Rubio's campaign team countered and spun unflattering reporting this week using social media. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Sen. Marco Rubio’s supporters found their nemeses this week in the pages of the New York Times, which published a number of pieces critical of the presidential hopeful’s personal finance management and numerous traffic infractions. Rubio’s campaign quickly denounced the articles as “attacks” from liberal “elites,” successfully spinning the implications of alleged incompetence into the affirmative argument that Rubio is a relatable candidate. Who hasn’t lived beyond their means or run a stoplight? Many commenters and journalists observed that the New York Times articles increased Marco Rubio’s likeability.

“More people are going to feel a connection to Marco Rubio -- who is the son of a bartender who immigrated from cuba, who has put himself through school -- than are going to feel a connection with millionaire and multimillionaire candidates [Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush],” said Fox News’ Howard Kurtz on Wednesday.

“Have you seen our national debt? Rubio could invest his entire fortune in laserdisc futures and still have a sounder budget than the country does,” Bloomberg’s William Leitch wrote in an article entitled “Did the New York Times Just Make Marco Rubio a Lot More Relatable?

In addition to a favorable media response, Rubio’s campaign was supported with a sizeable army of supporters on Twitter, marshaled by the retweets of Rubio Communications Director Alex Conant.

“If [Marco Rubio] was worth millions, The [New York Times] would then attack him for being too rich, like they did to Mitt Romney,” Conant tweeted

On Twitter, Rubio’s “Troubling Money Problems” were mocked by supporters using the ironic Rubio Spending Spree hashtag.

The most attacked was the assertion that his $80,000 dollar fishing boat -- which the Times says he bought when he couldn't really afford it -- can't be considered a "luxury" item.

Rubio supporters rallied under a similar hashtag last week, as the New York Times reported on 4-count catalogue of Rubio’s traffic infractions: Rubio Crime Spree. Like his problems with debt, parking tickets and running red lights seem to have endeared supporters more than they’ve turned them off.

Ridiculous Reporting? Probably Not

Marco Rubio’s supporters have a good sense of humor, and his campaign team certainly made the bad press work for him. Yet his spin rests on the assumption that the New York Times articles are opposition work. In reality, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza points out, the New York Times “attacks” are the overdue media vetting of an yet-uninterrogated political candidate. With his short political resume and no major national policy work, Rubio’s life hasn’t been subjected to the same scrutiny as his rivals.

Want to see what a real attack looks like? Read what disapproving Republicans said about about his financial mismanagement during his 2010 Florida Senate campaign. Here’s an unsympathetic voice from an article published in the heat of his race against rival Republican Charlie Crist, “Marco Rubio's personal finances clash with call for fiscal discipline.”

"Now more than ever people are sympathetic to the financial troubles other people have," Republican consultant Chris Ingram told the Tampa Bay Times. "But with Marco, it's greater than that. There seems to be a pattern of behavior in which he's not good at controlling his own money or the money of others."

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