The New York Times' "FiveThirtyEight" blog boldly ventures that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) might be "The Electable Conservative" for 2016. Nate Silver's write-up is not so revealing about Rubio (unless you weren't already aware that he's a conservative) but more so about the problem that plagues the Republican Party.
Aside from the fact that the GOP is little better—if at all—than the current administration when it comes to spending our money and allowing the government to get "all up in our bid-ness," the Right suffers from a pretty substantial image problem. It's just not cool to be a conservative.
And that's exactly why Rubio is The NYT's pick when it comes to electable conservatives. Although his Conservatism Score is solidly middle-of-the-pack (beating the current congressional average by only three percentage points), he's not unpopular. And that's saying something. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), for example, has a favorability rating of only 32 percent, and he was only one election away from the White House.
On top of Rubio's likability, Silver points out that "Mr. Rubio is Hispanic and is from Florida." As silly (if not discriminatory) as these qualifications would sound when interviewing for almost any other job in the world, these things actually matter when it comes to a presidential election.
Silver also touches on a couple other "ideologically similar candidates"—some of whom actually bring more to the table than a toe-the-party-line voting record and a persona that the public and media don't dislike (yet).
Some of those candidates, like Mr. Ryan, can probably offer a richer intellectual defense of conservatism, or can claim to have been better vetted. Several others, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have more executive experience.
None of that is going to matter down the line. Ryan was painted as a psycho when Mitt Romney picked him as his would-be-VP. And Jindal's approval rating has been taking a nose-dive for the past three years, even in his home state.
This isn't about who has the brightest ideas or who can communicate them clearest or with integrity. Winning the presidential election is largely about viral marketing. President Obama used that to his advantage, and it's safe to say that Democrats will be employing (and improving upon) his methods for years to come. If the Republicans continue to support unmarketable candidates, they shouldn't be surprised at all when they continue to lose.