The case for Rubio

Sure, Rubio is completely static in the polls (hey, he could be Jeb or Scott Walker).  But here’s the case Jamelle Bouie made a couple weeks ago, and I still think it’s a good one:

For as much as Romney struggled against conservative enthusiasm for vanity candidates, he also held a steady place in the polls, with strong fundraising and a solid, professional organization. Romney wasn’t the first choice for the majority of Republican primary voters, but he was the firstalternate for when everyone’s various infatuations died down…

But votes are just one part of this game; you need party support too, and that’s just not in the cards for either Trump or Carson. Both will eventually fade from view—or at least the Republican nominating process—as voters start the more serious search for a nominee. The problem, this time, is that there isn’t a Romney—an obvious choice for consolidation who is on the steady march to inevitability. Instead, there’s a collection of “plausible” candidates who all seem too flawed to succeed…

[Nice section on the flaws of Bush, Walker, and Kasich follows]

The only “plausible” candidate left—someone to bridge the gaps among all party factions—is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. What he lacks in Bush’s money or Walker’s electoral success he has in raw talent: Rubio is the most gifted communicator of the field, with enough savvy to avoid Trump’s traps. He doesn’t engage Trump on immigration or try to swat him away. Instead, he talks policy, tries to distinguish himself with substance, and marches toward his goal.

Rubio, in other words, has the simple combination of discipline and message—movement conservatism, shorn of its roughest edges—that leads to victory. He, put differently, is the closet candidate in the field to the last election’s Romney. If I were a Republican donor or activist trying to make a decision, I’d give the young senator another look.

No, Rubio has not made any great movement in the polls.  But if you believe that it is almost impossible (almost, mind you) for Trump or Carson to win the nomination without institutional support, Rubio strikes me as the most plausible alternative right now.  And I also think some cooler heads will see Rubio as a way to help undo some of the damage with Hispanics that Trump is currently wreaking.

In fact, if Intrade were still around, I’d be awfully tempted to bet on Rubio for the nomination.  I’m sure you can get great odds.  (And here’s a great NPR story about the history of betting on politics).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

10 Responses to The case for Rubio

  1. ohwilleke says:

    Rubio is Jeb Bush’s mini-me and I don’t see any plausible way for him to change that fact. Mini-me may get a VP spot, but he isn’t going to be on top of the ticket. The two men are quite similar in who they appeal to, but Jeb comes from a family that has produced two previous Presidents, has held statewide executive branch office, and has way more money. Those factors combined, are always going to trump the fact that somebody else in the race is smarter. Indeed, being smarter may be a disadvantage.

  2. Jon K says:

    Rubio is too tea party for my tastes. Also, getting burned on immigration has left him sensitive to pissing off base, Hence his extreme antiabortion stance (NO exceptions even though his record states otherwise).

    Also, his voice reminds me of Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. I keep picturing him in his kitchen yelling at his mom “I have good things that you don’t know about”…. Don’t think that means anything but his voice triggers that for me every time I hear him get animated about something. He needs more experience and gravitas (and to rediscover that he should distance himself from tea party nuts not pander to them) before he is ready to be president. It isn’t his turn this time.

    And how about that joke bomb last night? His wife totally told him he should do that. He probably did it at a family BBQ and it was a hit. It is always fun to watch someone throw out a line they think will kill and see the realization that they just bombed. I have watched that clip about 5 times and found something different entertaining in it every time.

    I thought in general that the debate was horrible – especially compared to the last republican debate. I really thought the moderators asked really stupid questions, and generally failed to moderate the debate and keep it focused. I felt like it was a mockery of our political system and that CNN made it appear that we have 1st graders running for president. At least Trump couldn’t stand up to people with actual policy positions. I thought he got creamed last night and looked like a jackass. Jeb clearly called him out on the Florida casino issue, and the facts are 100% with Jeb on that one.

  3. rgbact says:

    From what I’ve seen from polls…Rubio would be the toughest for Hillary to beat. Imagine him on stage versus her and where the low info people will gravitate. Course, theres a little detail of how he actually gets nominated. Its hard to say until more people drop out. I love his chances heads up vs. Jeb or Trump though.

    • Jon K says:

      i’ve seen polls showing Kasich beating Hillary. I’ve also read he’s the candidate Hillary would most fear in a general election. I think that the outsider candidates are going to fade rather quickly now. The establishment is going to assert itself, and I think at the end of the day it could be Kasich. If Jeb isn’t going to pull it off then he’s the best hope of the establishment. Think about it. He is very popular gov in Ohio, he wrote the balanced budget in the 90’s, and has more appeal to moderates. I thought he was the only adult in the room several times during the debate last night. Once enough republicans are paying attention to mitigate the talk radio / tea party crowd I think we will see him gain support. He’s already polling around 20% in New Hampshire. He doesn’t rise in national polls because his campaign is focused 100% on New Hampshire at this point, and he is resonating there.

      • rgbact says:

        I agree with much. The establishment will have a candidate, and after the debate, I increasingly think its not Jeb. Kasich was the logical replacement, although I think Christie is now also ahead of Jeb based on the debate. Kasich does make a great general candidate, although guys like me fear he’ll end up agreeing with Hilary on everything and praising all her wonderful work. Christie is far more willing to fight.

  4. Jon K says:

    look at his record. he is a fiscal hawk. Balanced budgets are his priority. Yes, he expanded medicaid in his state. i don’t really understand why more republican governors haven’t. whether or not you like obama care, turning down essentially free money to help poor people – the federal government pays all expansion costs for 10 years and then 90% thereafter is not rational. i think if republicans actually knew the actual facts of medicaid expansion they might not be so supportive of blocking it. Its one thing I give Kasich credit for – he doesn’t hate poor people and wasn’t willing to hurt them for political points. Just about every other republican governor did the easy politically correct thing to do. Same with unions Kasich tried to end public unions in Ohio. When it became clear that this was not what the people of Ohio wanted he accepted that and dropped the issue. I want someone with temperament like that as president.

    • rgbact says:

      i also hear you on the Obamacare deal. I was also surprised that more didn’t take the “free money” and I actually give Kasich credit for not just sucking up to us righties on that one, especially since Ohio already had expanded Medicaid. So, your points are good. I’m not sure about the union deal, besides knowing that Walker made WI a right to work state recently, which I like. So Kasich’s “temperment” sounds like caving. Right now, I’m in the Walker camp, although I’d like to see the debates winnow down to Walker, Rubio, Kasich, Christie, and Fiorina before too long.

  5. Jon K says:

    actually he let the public vote in a referendum they voted no.
    he fought hard for it but accepted the decision gracefully. thus he was able to stay popular and be reelected. he listened to the people and changed his plans.

    • Jon K says:

      in a nutshell here is what happened after he lost the vote:
      The Ohio governor defeated his hapless Democratic challenger, Ed Fitzgerald, 62–31. Kasich won 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties, including Cuyahoga County, where, in 2012, Cleveland voters gave President Obama a 40-point win over Mitt Romney. “In a pivotal state, maybe the pivotal state, he won a crushing victory, and that’s noticed throughout the Republican party,” former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber tells National Review Online.

      Kasich’s victory was as overwhelming as his defeat had been in 2011, when 61 percent of Ohioans voted to repeal the collective-bargaining reforms he’d signed into law and his approval rating languished in the 30s. His background at Lehman Brothers made it easy for Democrats to portray the law, which affected police and firefighters, as an act of war on the working class and a danger to public safety.

      “He realized that it was time to move on to other issues, and I think he did it very strongly,” says former Ohio house speaker JoAnn Davidson, a longtime Kasich ally.

      Kasich returned to the theme that helped him shake the Wall Street fat-cat image during his campaign: jobs and the economy. He cut taxes, balanced the budget from the $8 billion shortfall that Strickland left behind, filled the state’s rainy-day fund, launched a new job-creation initiative, and streamlined the state government’s 77 job-training programs. From 2011 to 2014, the Ohio unemployment rate beat the national average as the state’s businesses created a quarter of a million jobs. Kasich also signed prison-sentencing reform into law and quadrupled the size of the school-choice program.


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