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SOPA and PIPA protest power: why Marco Rubio backed off piracy bill

Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the original co-sponsors of the Senate's anti-piracy bill, but he reversed course Wednesday amid a flurry of protests against PIPA and SOPA.

By Staff writer / January 19, 2012

Marco Rubio thanks supporters in Coral Gables, Fla., after winning his senate bid during the midterm elections. On Wednesday, Senator Rubio did an about-face and withdrew his support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

Alan Diaz/AP

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Florida Senator Marco Rubio Wednesday did a sharp about-face and withdrew his support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the face of widespread Web protests that the Senate bill and a companion House measure would restrict Internet freedom.

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This being a political blog, not a techie one, our question is this: Does Senator Rubio’s flip-flop help or hurt his chances of becoming the GOP’s 2012 vice-presidential candidate?

First, some background: Rubio was one of the original co-sponsors of the PIPA legislation. Supporters say PIPA would help stop international electronic piracy, which is sapping dollars and jobs out of the US movie, music, and publishing businesses. Opponents say it would go too far by, among other things, empowering the US government to decide whether to block access to foreign websites it deems suspect.

Florida has a big movie industry presence. (Disney World, anyone? Perhaps the Universal Studios tour?) But Rubio for weeks has faced pressure from constituents and some conservative commentators to oppose PIPA and its government-centric solution to the Internet piracy problem.

On Wednesday, the day Wikipedia went black and homework came to a halt, Rubio was one of the first of a string of senators who decided to change their minds. He announced the change on his Facebook page, saying, “Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”

Others who changed sides on this issue yesterday include Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa.

For his part, Rubio has long been mentioned as a prime veep choice – he’s young, telegenic, a tea party favorite, and hails from a swing state that commands a lot of electoral votes. He’d be a great complement for a northern ex-governor who is kind of stiff and not the first choice of conservatives. Not that we’re naming names, but his initials are Mitt Romney.

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