Senator Marco Rubio spoke for the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, staking out his position as the GOP super hawk, announcing that he would not be afraid to go to war. Presumably, he will have to compete with Senator Lindsey Graham for that role. And they both will have to find a suitable target.
Recent polls show him climbing. A Quinnipiac Poll has him tied with Rand Paul for second place in Iowa, behind Scott Walker. And a recent Bloomberg poll has him second only to Rand Paul in New Hampshire.
He is a fascinating candidate popular with the media. I call him a “demographic on steroids.”
First, he is Hispanic and that is the wave of the future for this country.
Second, he is from Florida, a key battleground, must win, state for any Republican.
Third, he is a Roman Catholic, with an LDS heritage, who regularly attends a Baptist church. Believe me, that is a highly evolved creature perfectly fitted for a modern, GOP primary process in an age of the Fox News Channel.
And finally, although he is young, he is the insider, big business, Wall Street, money alternative to Jeb Bush. In fact, Rubio’s people are right now telling donors that a dollar given to Jeb Bush is a dollar given to Hillary Clinton since Bush will never win a head to head contest with her. The national media and major corporations will never allow three of the last five presidents to come from the same immediate family. Bush, we are told, is only insurance in case Hillary slips.
These above are the four major positives of a Marco Rubio candidacy. But he has one major negative.
Marco Rubio, like most of the other candidates in this race, has no raison d’etre. There is no purpose in his candidacy other than naked ambition. For too many candidates in this race it is all about them and not the voter. Hillary Clinton says, “Vote for me I am a woman.” Marco Rubio says, “Vote for me I am Hispanic.” Even Scott Walker’s argument says nothing about what he would do. Walker says, “Vote for me I am a governor. I know how to be an administrator.” It is meant to contrast the ineptitude of the current president.
But being a governor is a pretty empty argument. Jimmy Carter was a governor. If you know how to run things well and you take the country in the wrong direction you will only get us there quicker. The missing piece is the direction. Where are you taking us? Why should we vote for you?
This may be why Senator Rand Paul is now leading these early swing state and battleground state polls. He is a fount of ideas. Young people have a reason to vote for him. African Americans have a reason to vote for him. Born again Christians have a reason to vote for him. Waitresses have a reason to vote for him. He doesn’t just raise the defense budget, he shows how he will do it while balancing the budget.
Marco Rubio needs a popular purpose to his campaign, something more than protecting insiders who are gaming the system, something with appeal to the masses. Their are signs that he is trying to develop that. He is using the word “conservative” a lot these days but an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations is not the best place to make that argument. As a candidate, he will have to come up with at least one cut in spending to justify the label. Something he hasn’t yet been able to do. Watch for him to distinguish himself in the debates. Not with flash but by avoiding self mutilation. And see how his money helps him survive the early crush of negative ads.
Finally Marco Rubio must convince Jeb Bush to drop out of the race and quickly. Otherwise he is locked into a huge battle in Florida. The GOP is not likely to nominate a candidate to contest Hillary Clinton if he can’t carry his own home state in a GOP primary. The same goes for Jeb Bush. The two will be locked into a death struggle in Florida, like the Russo-German front in World War Two. This drains money away from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. They could conceivably win some of those contests and still lose Florida and get knocked out.
But then, last month Jeb Bush was beating Marco Rubio.
Most bets are that Marco Rubio will not go away early. If he doesn’t win himself he will likely be asked onto the ticket by the winner. Either way, Marco Rubio will be around for a long time.