Monday, April 13, 2015

Is Marco Rubio Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare?

By Richard K. Barry

Yes, I will pretend I care about poor people.

Earlier today Sen. Marco Rubio announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. John King at CNN called him the best athlete in the field, though conceding that his performance over time will bear close scrutiny. Many call him the best communicator among GOP contenders. He has a compelling personal story, and is an attractive candidate.

What then are his chances?

Well, maybe not that good.

Nate Cohn at the New York Times writes that:
[Jeb] Bush’s pre-emptive bid to build elite support has denied Mr. Rubio the opportunity to consolidate the centre-right wing of the party. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a big problem if Mr. Rubio were a favourite of the conservatives skeptical of Mr. Bush’s candidacy, but the field is full of candidates who are equally good or better fits for many conservative voters.

It is sometimes easy to forget that the nomination process is not a top-line popularity contest but a long and hard state-by-state struggle. Momentum, or lack thereof, has an outsized impact on final success. If Marco Rubio does too poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, it will be very difficult to recover, and the truth is that he is well positioned to do poorly in those states.
The challenge for Mr. Rubio is heightened by the first two nominating contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, which are better understood as factional winnowing contests. The Iowa caucuses are deeply conservative — 47 percent of caucus-goers in 2012 identified as “very conservative” — and even more evangelical: 57 percent identified as born again or evangelical Christians. New Hampshire, on the other hand, is among the most moderate contests in the country: 47 percent of New Hampshire primary voters were self-identified moderates four years ago. It is not surprising that a candidate with broad but shallow appeal, like Mr. Rubio, has struggled to gain a strong foothold in either state.

As Cohn writes, "the presidential primary is not just about skill," it's also about positioning. In the above scenario Rubio is, as Cohn writes, "boxed out" by being unable to successfully compete for the hard-core conservative vote on the one hand or the moderate conservative vote on the other.

If, however, Rubio has done reasonably well once the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire are counted, and Jeb Bush turns out to be more unpopular with the base than most of us thought, and Scott Walker ends up looking as inexperienced and unready on the national stage as many believe he will, and if the harder-core right-wing candidates fail earlier than expected, then Rubio's skills might matter. He might have a shot.

Who knows? But those first two primaries will tell us all we need to know about Marco Rubio.

If he is still in fighting shape when they are over, he could be Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare, a Republican with broad but shallow appeal.

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1 Comments:

  • I'm still trying to get my head around Rubio. I just don't see his appeal. And like all the Republicans, he has abandoned every moderate position he's ever had in order to be taken seriously in the primary. We'll see.

    But as I hammer on all the time, it doesn't matter who the Republicans nominate. If the economy is improving in the first 9 months of 2016, the Democrats win. If not, the Republicans win. If things are stable, the Democrats win -- assuming the Supreme Court doesn't get to decide.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 12:51 PM  

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