Marco Rubio

Tell Me Again, Why Is Marco Rubio a Presidential Front-runner?

There's nothing wrong with Rubio's boilerplate anti-Obama positioning, but there's nothing especially unique about it, either.

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C-SPAN/Wikimedia

On Sunday, Marco Rubio informed Jonathan Karl on ABC's "This Week" that he is ready to be president. "I think a president has to have a clear vision of where the country needs to go and clear ideas about how to get it there," he went on. "And I think we're very blessed in our party to have a number of people that fit that criteria."

And Rubio seems a plausible option for Republicans in 2016. Falling somewhere between Jeb Bush-Chris Christie and the purportedly unelectable Rand Paul-Ted Cruz, Rubio is the sort of comfortable choice Republicans tend to decide on. As National Review's Eliana Johnson points out, experts see numerous advantageous aspects to a Rubio presidential candidacy: He's a proven conservative with a moderate demeanor. He's comparatively youthful with a strong presence. And he has the ability to engage in Hispanic outreach. Hailing from an important state doesn't hurt, either.

And yet…

For me, at least, the promise of Rubio seldom corresponds with the reality. Whenever I listen to him these days, all I hear is Mitt Romney. If he's really imbued with all these formidable political skills, why do so many of his appearances feel stilted? If he's one of the fresh faces of a new GOP, why are his speeches crammed with platitudes that might have packed a serious punch in 1984? It's not that he's substantively wrong (though he offers so little in that regard). It's not that he's off-putting. It's that he never really generates the sort of excitement or displays the sort of political acumen his reputation might have you believe he can, should, or will.

When Rubio was christened the "The Republican Savior" by Time in 2013, it was immigration reform (specifically his backing for a pathway to citizenship) that would be his first test of leadership—his chance, according to the magazine, to show Republicans "that he's not just geographically, demographically and ideologically correct." And did he pass?

Whether you agree with him or not, Rubio's time with the Gang of Eight featured some impressive moments. He didn't shy away from critics. He went on talk radio and passionately argued his case. The base was angry but likely will forgive him. What should be more concerning, though, is the political naivete he displayed allowing Democrats to use the issue—and him—to bludgeon the GOP. Rubio, in the end, was forced to step away from the entire mess, which makes it a failure on both a political level and a policy level.

And Rubio's subsequent pandering was his way of letting everyone know he is "severely" conservative. His conservative voting record is first-rate, according to the American Conservative Union. But exactly how challenging has it been for a Republican senator in the minority to oppose Barack Obama over the past five years? Not very. Others with comparable ACU grades include Mitch McConnell and about a dozen others.

There's nothing wrong with Rubio's boilerplate anti-Obama positioning, but there's nothing especially unique about it, either.

Successful presidential candidates will often tap into the restive anxieties of American life—Ronald Reagan with invasive government and Obama with the inequities of capitalism, to name two. Perhaps an issue will arise that Rubio can grab, but right now he's a bit out of step with his own party's evolution.

It was amusing to see Rubio following Mike Lee and others, tepidly aiming his guns at corporate cronyism this week: "Big companies may not like big government, but they can afford to deal with it." The issue seemed manufactured. He also unveiled a yawn-inducing "policy agenda" this week, which was overshadowed by his inability to handle some uncomplicated questions about climate change.

Rubio, it should be noted, saves his most potent rhetoric for foreign policy. A 2012 National Journal piece, "Accepting the Neocon Torch: Marco Rubio," reported: "When he pushed for a more forceful U.S. response in confronting a dictator in Syria and autocrat in Nicaragua, Rubio said, he was thwarted—mainly by Republicans. 'Today in the Senate on foreign policy, the further you move to the right, the likelier you are to wind up on the left.'"

Well, the idea that interventionism is an inherently right-wing position is false. More importantly, though, as conservatism moves toward a more balanced debate on the limits of foreign policy, Rubio's hard-line position will be less appealing to voters (unless events change this reality, which can always happen).

So what exactly has Rubio done to merit his front-runner status?

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  1. I wonder who he’d tap for a VP candidate. Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House, and I’ve heard a rumbling or two about the feasibility of Will Weatherford as a running mate. Curious.

    1. I wonder who he’d tap for a VP candidate

      Selina Meyer… I’d tap Selina Meyer.

  2. Romney was electable, damnit! It was just you teabagging Koch fellators that ruined his chances.

  3. Rubio is ineligible to be the President because he is not a “natural born Citizen” because his parents were not citizens at the time of his birth. He is a citizen by virtue of the 14th amendment meaning he was naturalized at birth.

    1. How is one is a citizen by virtue of their birth not a “natural born citizen?”

      1. *who is

      2. They are granted citizenship by law at birth.
        natural born Citizen:
        born in a country to citizen parents
        Naturalized at birth:
        born in the US to one or two alien parents
        born outside the US to one or two citizen parents
        Naturalized:
        immigrated

        1. That’s not correct at all. Citizenship by birth, either to US citizens or by birth within the U.S., is entirely different than naturalization. There is no such thing as naturalized at birth. See U.S. v Wong Kim Ark.

          1. Do you seriously think that I’d be posting a comment like this without having read Wong? Naturalized means “to be made as if natural”. If you are a citizen at birth and you were not born in the country to citizen parents there is nothing else you can be but naturalized at birth. It requires no paper work and no ceremony it is automatic.

            1. How many of our Founders were born to U.S. citizens??

              Any questions?

              1. None.

                Yes, why would you post such an ignorant comment?

                They grandfathered themselves in moron. Try reading Article 2, section 1 of the Constitution and you’ll find out why you are an embarrassment.

        2. I’m pretty sure he is a naturalized citizen if he was born in the US, period. Nothing else is needed. My wife is in the same boat. A Canadian, born abroad to two Canadian parents, but born in LA, and registered at birth as a Canadian. (Her Father was in grad school at the time in California). The US government is now saying she is a citizen (58 years later) and has to pay taxes to them.

  4. “… Rubio seems a plausible option for Republicans in 2016.”

    Unless you talk to conservative voters in Florida who voted for what he said in ’10 and then shook their heads in amazement and disgust at what he’s done since being in office.

    I, for one, will be working hard in the ’16 primaries to see him removed from contention … whether it be for reelection or for a higher office.

  5. So what exactly has Rubio done to merit his front-runner status?

    He’s “leading” a weak field.

  6. All of our brilliant commenters so far — along with the author of this screed — have not yet managed to figure out that
    a) Rubio is Hispanic
    b) Hispanics are potentially the largest gains for the GOP.

    Or it could be Rand Paul or Ted Cruz … extreme social conservatives like Santorum, but with BIG spending cuts. Wow!

    1. a) Rubio is Hispanic
      b) Hispanics are potentially the largest gains for the GOP.

      Only the Party of Stupid believes they can win over Mexicans with a Cuban.

      1. Speaking of stupid … you don’t know very much about Hispanics.

        1. Yeah, they’re a totally monolithic voting bloc regardless of country of origin. HURRRRR DURRRRRR

  7. Of the three, Paul seems least likely to enact social con policies. Some of the things he says in that realm do turn me off, but he seems like he would put that on the back-burner to pursue more aggressive and meaningful policy on economics, drugs, education, etc. of course I could be deluding myself

    1. Deluded may be too strong a word , but …

      Ron says gay marriage should be a state issue, but ALSO says he’d have voted for DOMA if he was in office. So gay marriage is a state issue, but only if the state follows the diktats of Ron Paul.

      He also supports a near total ban on abortion, allowing only a morning-after pill. Obviously, he believes the right to Liberty is unalienable … unless you’re pregnant. No different than Santorum. And totally ignorant of our Founding Principles.

      Rand Paul is equally a hypocrite. He says abortion should be a state issue but BRAGS about sponsoring a federal bill that would ban abortion at conception … both on his federal website! OMG

      The Christian Taliban includes a a wing which doesn’t babble endlessly about God and religion … but supports the same policies as the most extreme social conservatives.

      I call it the Tenth Amendment con job, or bullshit federalism. Both Pauls lie about the Tenth Amendment, which leaves unenumerated powers to the states and to the people. The Ninth Amendment further clarifies by leaving unenumerated rights to only the people. How can ANYONE deny the entire concept of unalienable rights … while babbling about strict constitutionalism!

      1. Well I don’t want to start an abortion debate, but I guess I will. If one were to believe that a fetus is a person with the same rights as any other person, than that fetus/person has rights to life that trumps the mother’s right to terminate. It’s totally consistent actually. That’s not necessarily what I believe, but if that is what Paul believes. It is hard to argue. There is no perfect candidate for me, unless Gary Jo runs again. But I agree with Paul more than any other of the potential R field.

        1. Apparently you’re new. Michael Hihn is a libertarian TOP MAN who invented individual rights. You see, both the mother and fetus have INALIENABLE HUMAN RIGHTS, and ergo, abortion. Because reasons.

      2. So gay marriage is a state issue, but only if the state follows the diktats of Ron Paul.

        You realize of course that DOMA has no bearing on state policy, only on which particular state documents the federal government will recognize. Which is a clear violation of the full faith and credit clause, but has absolutely no relation whatsoever to a federal diktat overruling state policy on marriage. And has since been overturned, taking the issue completely off the table.

        But MUH SOCONZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. “As National Review’s Eliana Johnson points out, experts see numerous advantageous aspects to a Rubio presidential candidacy: He’s a proven conservative with a moderate demeanor. He’s comparatively youthful with a strong presence. And he has the ability to engage in Hispanic outreach. Hailing from an important state doesn’t hurt, either.”

    That is enough, but add that there’s nobody better at articulating the importance of liberty principles than Marco Rubio. He is a charismatic speaker, it sounds like it comes from his deepest beliefs, and he has the background as a Cuban immigrant.

    Just watch his address to the GOP national convention in 2012, his speeches at CPAC, and/or his Senate rant when he participated in the “filibuster” that launched the government shutdown.

    Every expert says that no candidate without charisma can beat Hillary Clinton, though few are making the connection. If the Republicans have any shot, they’ll pick Rubio or if he grows in the polls, Rand Paul.

  9. It’s quite simple why he’s in contention. He’s the perfect VP.
    As a presidential candidate he wouldn’t bring much to the table policy-wise, but here’s what he does bring:

    1. Florida’s electoral college votes (potentially)
    2. Higher percentage of hispanic votes (potentially)
    3. “______/Rubio 2016” sounds great, nullifies anti-minority rhetoric.
    4. Neo-con votes
    5. Smooth talker/soft spoken boyish charm
    6. He’s young, not some crusty old stalwart.

    I’m betting Rand Paul (among others) would be eyeing up Rubio as a potential VP and hoping he doesn’t garner too much popularity as a presidential contender.

  10. He drank the water, but then he reached off camera to put the bottle back!

    Who puts the bottle back? Seriously, who does that on national TV. Just hold on to the water, dude!

    If that were Ted Kennedy, we’d still be waiting here while the Senator sipped and savored his bottled water. It was Poland Spring water, after all. Senator Kennedy should enjoy it, and we’ll wait here while he does.

    Poland Spring. I’ve never had it, but if it’s good enough for Marco Rubio, I’d try it.

    I mean seriously Marco. If that were Ted Kennedy, he wouldn’t have had to reach for any drink. He’d have already quenched his thirst before the speech?with a Jack and Coke. Ted Kennedy knows how to drink, Marco! You’re a pussy, Marco!

    More at http://scottiesharpe.wordpress…..president/

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