Wednesday, April 01, 2015

We're about to learn a lot more about Marco Rubio's career plans

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

Yesterday, Daily Intelligencer reported that an announcement from the Republicans' Great Cuban Hope is coming soon:

A year after declaring he'd run for the Senate or the presidency in 2016, but not both, Marco Rubio has made up his mind. Following reports that the Florida senator has reserved the Freedom Tower in Miami, on Monday he confirmed on Fox News's The Five that he'll "announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate," according to Politico. "So you will announce that you’re running for president?" said co-host Dana Perino. "I'll announce something on April 13," Rubio replied. The senator's being coy, but feel free to start getting excited about his Senate reelection campaign!

Well, maybe. Let's consider that possibility:

He won't run for president, because he doesn't want to lose (and he would), but he'll run for Senate, because he wants to win (and he will). It's probably just that simple.

Now, would he really lose were he to run for president? He'd almost certainly lose to Hillary, who is, of course, the certain Democratic nominee, but it's highly likely he wouldn't even come close to the Republican nomination.

I hesitate to make too much of the silly Iowa Republican straw poll, and I won't, but Rubio finished a distant seventh at the end of February with just 4%, well behind even fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, who ended up with a disappointing (for him) 8%. Now, that's a straw poll of the extremists who make up the base, but mainstream polls put him well back as well.

Now, it could be premature to back out. After all, there are loads of ups and downs in any nomination race -- just think back to 2012, when every challenger to Romney as the general frontrunner seemed to have his moment at the top of the pack. And Rubio could very well emerge as the bridge between the extremist base (represented by Ted Cruz, as well as by more defined social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee) and the somewhat less extremist establishment (represented by Bush and Chris Christie), with Rand Paul representing the iconoclastic quasi-libertarian elements of the party. Currently, the bridge figure appears to be Scott Walker, but he's untested on the national stage and might not have the staying power to remain a serious contender throughout the long and winding race. So why not Rubio?

Well, maybe because Rubio just doesn't seem to have it. And by "it" I mean that nebulous quality that seems to propel a select group of politicians, even a dud like Romney, into presidential politics. He just seems too raw, too immature, too unprincipled, too shamelessly opportunistic.

And it's that last point that matters now. He knows where the opportunity is, and that's not in a run for the White House that is sure to end in defeat but in a re-election campaign for the Senate.

And hey, if he does end up announcing that on April 13, at least we can say he did the realistic thing, which is not something that can be said about many Republicans these days.


What if that isn't his decision? What if he does decide to run for president? I mean, he's booked the Freedom Tower. Generally, you'd make an exciting announcement at such a venue, not one that is sure to disappoint the enthusiastic supporters who would turn out for such an event.

So it would seem that he's going for it, that he really thinks he can win -- and I suppose he has a shot, though of course politicians in their bubbles of sycophantic cheerleaders always think they can win.

But if that's the case, the above still applies. He could emerge as the bridge candidate, if more of an establishment type than a base type, but the odds are against him, and his biggest weakness may very well be himself.

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