‘I don’t get angry Marco’: Critics aren’t convinced by Rubio’s efforts to attract Trump voters
Marco Rubio (AFP Photo/Rhona Wise)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is still harboring White House ambitions, but he knows he'll have to wait for Donald Trump to leave the stage.

The Florida Republican directly challenged Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, but critics say he's tried to emulate the twice-impeached one-term president to win over voters in an increasingly right-wing Republican Party, reported NBC News.

"He was always kind of a happy warrior," said Democratic operative Steve Schale, who's known Rubio for years. "It feels like he has spent the last couple of years trying to figure out a voice, and it doesn't feel authentic to the Marco Rubio who I've followed for more than 20 years of his career."

"I don't get angry Marco," he added. "That's just not who he is."

A recent survey found 46 percent of Florida voters think Rubio should be re-elected, compared to 40 percent who say he shouldn't, but he's polling at just 1 percent in a prospective 2024 presidential primary that included Trump's name.

"Well, I've run for president once," Rubio said, "so clearly I've had interest in the position, and so for me to tell you that I would never run again is silly. But what I can't tell you is I don't know what the world looks like in 2024. I don't know what my life looks like in 2024. I don't know what the party will be looking for in 2024. A lot of that is going to depend on factors I can't predict and, frankly, in many cases don't control."

Rubio challenged Trump more directly in the 2016 primary than some candidates, but he worked alongside him as president and doesn't plan to campaign against him should he run again in four years.

"At a certain level, he knows where the wind is blowing," said an aide for another GOP senator. "But he's always been a more interesting thinker than he gets credit for."