“Pope” Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist at the New York Times, has doubts about the alleged Republican Savior, Marco “Big Gulp” Rubio of Florida. Marco Rubio, the Unusual Front-Runner:
2016 is very different: The G.O.P. candidates are stronger overall, there’s no one with Mitt Romney’s hammerlock on money and endorsements, and Donald Trump and Ben Carson have more staying power than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain.
But you can still play a version of the elimination game this time around.
Play it with me. No major party has ever nominated a figure like Trump or Carson, and I don’t believe that the 2016 G.O.P. will be the first. Rand Paul’s libertarian moment came and went, Carly Fiorina seems like she’s running for a cabinet slot, John Kasich is too moderate (and ornery about it), Chris Christie has never recovered from the traffic cones. Scott Walker and Rick Perry are gone. Ted Cruz has the base’s love, but far too many leading party actors hate him. Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee are boxed out by Carson and Cruz; Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki are boxed out by voter indifference.
That leaves Jeb! and Marco Rubio. But Jeb’s campaign has been one long flail. His favorable ratings are terrible, he and Trump topped a recent poll of Iowans that asked which candidate should drop out expeditiously, and as a Republican consultant pointed out for National Review this week, his candidacy looks like a pure creation of the super-rich: He has raised only three times as much from small-dollar donors as Lawrence Lessig, the good-government academic running a quixotic campaign against Hillary Clinton.
So that leaves Rubio. And unlike all the rest, it’s surpassingly easy to imagine the Florida senator as the nominee. He sits close to the party’s center ideologically, and his favorable ratings with Republicans are consistently strong. He’s an effective debater with a great personal story and an appealing style, and a more impressive policy portfolio than most of his rivals. He scares Democrats in the general election [only in your imagination “Pope” Douthat], and strikes the most politically-useful contrasts with She Who Has Always Been Inevitable. His past support for comprehensive immigration reform is a major liability, but Rubio has shown a lot more finesse on that issue than has Jeb, and one liability isn’t usually enough to doom a candidate who otherwise looks like a winner.
And that’s how Rubio looks right now. The betting markets have him as the most likely nominee, and — since this is quadrennial prediction time — I’ll say that I agree: I think he’s the real front-runner, and I predict that he will win.
But I make that prediction gingerly, not boldly, because Rubio is a very strange sort of front-runner. He has never led a national poll. He is not cleaning up endorsements, nor raking in the cash: His recent fund-raising totals were weak given his seemingly-enviable position. Nobody seems impressed with his early state organization. He’s earned a round of favorable coverage after each debate without making much progress overall.
It’s also easier to imagine him winning a national primary than it is to figure out which early state he’ll win: He’s a little too moderate for Iowa, a little too conservative for New Hampshire, perhaps not quite combative enough for South Carolina … and so he might end up in the Rudy Giuliani-esque position of banking on his native Florida.
It is possible to win a party’s nomination without winning the earliest states, if the candidates who do win seem unelectable: That’s how Bill Clinton won in 1992, and Rubio’s candidacy has certain obvious similarities to Clinton’s.
It’s also quite possible that there will be a consolidation of money and support around Rubio that enables him to eke out a narrow Iowa or New Hampshire win, in which case he could very easily run the table thereafter.
But the question people keep asking — I had a smart political reporter ask me just the other day — is why that consolidation isn’t happening already. If Rubio is actually the front-runner, shouldn’t a few more big donors be drifting from Jeb’s camp into his?
* * *
I think they will. I predict they will.
But in the event they don’t, I’m guessing that Mitt Romney is still ready to serve.
Well “Pope” Douthat, the reason is that people are not stupid. They can see that this ambitious young Teabagger from Florida ran for the U.S. Senate only to gain a platform from which to run for president. He hasn’t been doing the job he gets paid to do — he is an absentee senator. Marco Rubio Leads GOP Hopefuls in Skipping Senate Votes and Marco Rubio 2016 candidate, absentee senator.
Today we learn that Rubio gives up on Senate: ‘He hates it’ (but he’ll keep taking his paycheck and benefits, thank you very much).
Charles Pierce at Esquire mocks the Tallahassee Twins J.E.B.! and Big Gulp today: Florida Man Hates Governing, So Why Not Elect Him President?
[Commenting on Mediaite report, Jeb Goes Off: I Could Be Doing ‘Really Cool Things’ Instead of Being President, You Know.]
“I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”
The current conventional wisdom has it that, when Jeb! and his campaign complete the complex ritual suicide on which they apparently have embarked, the party’s lonely eyes may well turn to Marco Rubio, stranded though he is in the wilderness of rakes. And, as it turns out, Rubio is another politician who really loves his work.
I don’t know that ‘hate’ is the right word,” Rubio said in an interview. “I’m frustrated.” This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust. “That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection,” Rubio said in the last Republican debate, after Donald Trump had mocked him for his unusual number of absences during Senate votes.
Yeah, people who have to get up and go to work everyday at a job they hate because they have to really don’t like your “Gen X” spoiled brat response, Big Gulp. They don’t have a highly paid gig waiting for them at FAUX News or hate talk radio to fall back on if things don’t work out for them.
“One important pillar of conservative political dominance, I believe, is the phenomenon sometimes called ‘wingnut welfare’: loyalists are always assured of decent employment, no matter how badly they perform.” – Paul Krugman.