Yesterday is Over
Standing before a throng of supporters chanting his name, Marco Rubio delivered his inspiring campaign kickoff speech. The young Florida senator spoke movingly about his family’s history and about how that history coincided with the American Dream. The most important parts of his speech illustrate the everyday people Rubio’s campaign seeks to champion–among them: maids, janitors, bartenders, single mothers, and students. These illustrations demonstrate his superb ability to connect with people beyond cold statistics. Touching on policy positions, highlighting his ability to speak Spanish, expressing his Christian faith and defining his campaign as forward-looking did much to connect his message to Republicans who want to grow the party and win the 2016 presidential race. National Review’s editors rightly declare Rubio “the most charismatic potential Republican nominee,” and “the most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs.”
But, can he win the nomination?
Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, argues that Rubio will likely fail.
“It’s not that [Rubio] can’t win. It’s that he’s almost no one’s first choice…56% of Republican voters say they could vote for him,” but “just 5.4% list him as a top choice.”
Bouie argues that a phenomenon Republicans typically regard as a strength–the vast field of candidates–may harm Rubio’s ability to stand out from the pack.
“…depending on your place in the GOP, there are potentially better options. If you’re a conservative who wants consensus and a more inclusive message, you have Jeb Bush, who melds Rubio’s potential appeal to Latino voters (his wife is Mexican, and he speaks fluent Spanish) with executive experience, fundraising prowess, and the all the benefits (and burdens) of the Bush name. Likewise, if you want a more aggressive choice—someone with the chops it takes to beat Democrats and advance a conservative agenda—you have Walker…If you’re a conservative evangelical…there’s Cruz (and potentially Mike Huckabee)…if you want a more libertarian choice, there’s Paul. Rubio may appeal to every base, but every base is already covered.”
Crystal Wright’s editorial appearing on CNN laments the potential crowded field:
“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and helping the party win the White House with a small, electable candidate pool, Republicans are threatening to dive into 2016 like spawning salmon,” she writes.
“When the Republican nominee finally emerges in the middle of 2016, the public’s perception of him or her will be negative, like it was of Romney, because the candidate will have had to defend against accusations of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) from ideologues like [Ted]Cruz.”
Wright’s comments concern Rubio, whose first order of business before launching a presidential bid was to offer a mea culpa on immigration reform that sets him right with the Party, but wrong on the issue.
However, these hurdles facing Rubio may not embody the challenges skeptics predict. While Jeb Bush (still unannounced) boasts the deepest pockets and a similar ecumenical appeal, Bush lacks popular support. Rand Paul must square many of his positions–especially on foreign intervention at a time when the GOP has reaffirmed its hawkish foreign policy views in the face of ISIS, Iranian nuclear talks, Russian aggression, and decline in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Cruz’ short Senate tenure is marked by a long list of enemies within the GOP, and Walker may lack the appeal to Latino voters that the GOP wants to attract to the party.
In short, if Republicans take Wright’s advice and refrain from damaging each other in the primary, everyone comes out on top–possibly even Marco Rubio.
“the most vital skill any candidate can have is the ability to transcend coverage and make his case to voters…is there any other Republican who could do that more effectively than Rubio?”
We shall see.