The Beltway media villagers’ conventional wisdom continues to be that the GOP establishment will eventually coalesce behind the man-child from Florida, Marco “Big Gulp” Rubio, because he is an attractive young candidate who “talks real good.” They apparently believe this is a beauty contest rather than an election for president of the United States.
But the Beltway media villagers’ conventional wisdom continues to be proven wrong, because Rubio is just not catching fire with rabid GOP primary voters. Steve Benen explains why in a series of posts. Rubio’s principal talking point starts to crumble:
One of the more dramatic flaws in Marco Rubio’s presidential candidacy is a brutal contradiction: he’s a career politician, winning six elections before his 41st birthday, with no real accomplishments to his name.
In the enormous Republican field, voters can choose between established, experienced candidates who’ve done things in public office (Kasich, Bush) or insurgent outsiders with non-governmental records (Trump, Carson), but Rubio is burdened with the worst of both worlds, winning several elections without having done much in the way of meaningful work.
It’s a point about which the Florida senator appears increasingly sensitive. In fact, in October, Rubio tried to take credit for others’ work during his tenure in the state legislature. This week, Rubio’s begun telling voters that he actually has a major federal accomplishment — he helped undermine the American health care system — and his allied super PAC is pushing the line in a commercial.
For some GOP voters and much of the media, this seems compelling — Rubio hasn’t just spun his wheels for five years on Capitol Hill; when he’s bothered to show up for work, he invested real time and energy into interfering with families’ access to medical care.
There are, however, two important flaws in the pitch. The first, of course, is the fact that deliberately trying to undermine the American health care system is not an accomplishment upon which to build a presidential campaign.
The second, as the Washington Post explained today, is that Rubio didn’t do what he claims to have done.
Success always has many fathers, but Rubio goes way too far in claiming credit here. He raised initial concerns about the risk-corridor provision, but the winning legislative strategy was executed by other lawmakers.
The irony is, Rubio has recently tried to take credit for others’ work as a way of differentiating himself from President Obama. “I’m not like that other one-term senator who ran for president,” the Florida Republican has effectively argued, “because I’ve gotten things done in Congress.”
It’s not just a lazy lie; it’s actually the exact opposite of reality.
As we discussed a few months ago, Obama put far more effort into his congressional career than Rubio, and as a result, he had more success. As a senator, Obama developed a reputation as a work horse, being well prepared for briefings and hearings, introducing a lot of bills, and developing an expertise on serious issues like counter-proliferation.
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Rubio has never developed that kind of reputation among his colleagues. On the contrary, he’s seen as a senator who misses a lot of votes, skips a lot of hearings, and fails to show up for a lot of briefings.
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It’s not fair to say Rubio never passed a bill, but it’s awfully close. According to congress.gov, the far-right Floridian, over the course of five years, took the lead in sponsoring a measure that was signed into law. It’s called the “Girls Count Act,” and it encourages developing countries to register girls’ births. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the policy, but it was a largely symbolic measure that passed both chambers without so much as a vote.
He also helped name September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.
That’s about it.
If Rubio and his allied super PAC find that embarrassing, they should probably try to change the subject – because deceptive claims and taking credit for others’ work isn’t generally a recipe for an improved presidential campaign.
The Beltway media villagers are not concerned about Senator No-Show not showing up for work, Why we shouldn’t care that Marco Rubio isn’t doing his job as a senator, and when J.E.B.! Bush tried to hit Rubio on his record during a debate, the Beltway media villagers declared it a big win for Rubio. How Marco Rubio owned Jeb Bush in Wednesday’s GOP debate. But as Dave Weigel explains, “Attacks on missed votes may miss, but attacks on missing hearings or briefings about things that already worry voters may prove damaging.” How a failed attack on Rubio got a second wind.
Steve Benen reports on a series of new ads hitting Senator No-Show on failing to show up for work from J.E.B.! Bush and Governor Chris Christie, who need to knock out Rubio — the media’s preferred choice for GOP establishment candidate — if their campaign is going to still be hanging around after New Hampshire. GOP candidates take aim at No-Show Rubio.
But the most damaging report to Rubio comes from Erik Eisele, a reporter for the Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire, who spent time with Rubio last week, and wrote this soon after:
We had roughly 20 minutes with him on Monday, and in that time he talked about ISIS, the economy, his political record and his background. But it was like watching a computer algorithm designed to cover talking points. He said a lot, but at the same time said nothing. It was like someone wound him up, pointed him towards the doors and pushed play. If there was a human side to senator, a soul, it didn’t come across through.
That might sound like harsh critique, but in essence that is the point of the New Hampshire primary, to test candidates in a retail politics setting.
Steve Benen adds, ‘Watching a computer algorithm designed to cover talking points’:
At least in this case, it was a test the young senator failed.
Eisele’s broader point, however, seemed to focus on Rubio being overly polished, overly scripted, and overly interested in the “expectation of perfection.”
Vox’s Andrew Prokop added, “This is something national political reporters who’ve followed Rubio have long observed. When you see him deliver a speech, he’s great – charismatic, fluid, winning. But he’s much better at hitting a previously prepared set of points than he is at striking a more conversational, informal tone.”
I think that’s true, but we can also take the next step and think about this in a governing context. Rubio has proven that when his staff hands him a script to memorize, he’ll do it as well as any 2016 candidate, if not better. But if you watch his debate performances or his town-hall appearances closely, you’ll notice that Rubio often stumbles when he’s asked to think on his feet.
Throw him a curve ball – in other words, ask him to say something he hasn’t already memorized – and suddenly the senator loses his footing. It’s not a flattering quality in someone trying to become the leader of the free world.
To borrow a phrase, it’s like someone winds him up, points him towards the doors and pushes play, but if there’s a glitch in software, Rubio seems lost.
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To use Erik Eisele’s metaphor, it’s the difference between intelligence and artificial intelligence.
So what he have here is an automaton who can be programmed to memorize a script and to talk real good, but he has no innate intelligence or capability. Marco Rubio isn’t running for president, he’s auditioning to host a show on FAUX News.