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“The Tragedy Of Marco Rubio — And The Republican Party”: The Entire Story Of This Period In The History Of The GOP

Marco Rubio’s campaign for president isn’t dead yet, but it’s awfully close. In last night’s primaries he didn’t just do poorly — coming in a distant third place in Idaho and Hawaii, and an even worse fourth place in Michigan and Mississippi — he also failed to win a single delegate in any of the four states.

Today, Carly Fiorina endorsed Ted Cruz, making it sound as if there is no other alternative choice if Donald Trump is to be beaten. Rubio’s odds of becoming president in 2016 are now about the same as the odds I have of replacing Steph Curry in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup. Could it happen? Technically, yes; there’s certainly no law against it. But it’s unlikely.

Rubio’s fall is more than just the story of a promising politician who failed to do as well as he (and many others) hoped. In fact, it’s the entire story of this period in the history of the Republican Party, distilled down to a single politician.

It might be hard to remember now, at a time when so many of those in the Republican establishment support Rubio, but when he first got elected to the Senate in 2010, he was a rebel and a Tea Party darling. He took on then-governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for a Senate seat from Florida, moving so far ahead of him in the polls that Crist dropped out and became an independent. When he got to the Senate, that establishment embraced him — just as they embraced the Tea Party as a whole, choosing to feed the beast and make it even more vicious, not realizing that one day it would turn on them.

The GOP saw its future in Rubio. Young, smart, articulate, Hispanic, he was a new kind of Republican who could sell conservatism to a changing America. The buzz around Rubio intensified after the party lost another election behind another rich older white guy in 2012. At the beginning of 2013, Time magazine put him on its cover over the headline “The Republican Savior.” The accompanying article is extraordinary to read, given where Rubio is today. Here’s an excerpt:

Now, just two years after he arrived in Washington, the charismatic conservative often hailed as the Tea Party’s answer to Barack Obama has emerged as the most influential voice in the national debate over immigration reform. He’s also the key player in his party’s efforts to make up to Hispanic voters after a disastrous 2012 campaign featuring Republican candidates who proposed electric fences and alligators along the southern border, as well as Mitt Romney’s suggestion of “self-deportation” for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. GOP leaders know they have a demographic problem. They hope Rubio can help provide the solution, which is why they’ve chosen him to deliver the response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12 — in English and Spanish.

Party leaders agreed that unless Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform, they could never convince Hispanics of their good faith. For Rubio, being part of the “Gang of 8″ was an opportunity to show he could be a real legislator and accomplish something important for the country and his party. That summer, the group passed its bill through the Senate, then sent it to the House, where it died.

And what was supposed to be a triumph for Rubio turned into a nightmare. Conservative talk radio declared him a traitor — both for advocating comprehensive reform that included a path to citizenship (albeit a long one) for undocumented immigrants, and for the very fact of working with Democrats on something, and he was all but excommunicated from the Tea Party. Both he and the GOP establishment realized that what was good for the party as a whole wasn’t necessarily what individual elected officials (particularly in the House) wanted or could tolerate. And they came to appreciate the full measure of the base’s anger at immigrants. It turned out that rank-and-file Republicans not only didn’t want comprehensive reform, they wanted just the opposite: build walls, crack down, throw the foreigners out. Forget about “reaching out” to minority groups — this party is whiter than ever.

So when Rubio decided to run for president, he made contempt for President Obama one of the themes of his campaign. Everywhere he went, he talked about Obama’s villainy. In every debate, Rubio would answer any question by immediately launching a blistering criticism of Obama, whether the question had anything to do with him or not. That “robotic” moment where he kept repeating himself even after Chris Christie mocked him for repeating himself? The message he was trying to communicate (“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing”) was that Obama isn’t just a failure but is intentionally destroying the country.

Yet just mimicking the rhetoric of talk radio wasn’t enough — for Rubio, or for the party itself. He couldn’t escape his brief heresy on “amnesty.” No matter how he tried, he couldn’t be anti-establishment enough. And no argument about how good he looks on paper as a general election candidate would sway voters who want the primaries to be a primal scream of rage against not just Washington and not just Obama but against the Republican Party itself.

Whatever his talents, the party’s golden boy can’t be the vehicle for that rage. Rubio may have many more endorsements than any other candidate — 5 governors, 14 senators, and 48 members of the House — but that probably hurt him as much as helped him, by reinforcing the idea that he’s the one the party leaders want. In the end, the candidate who worked so hard to present himself as serious and knowledgeable was reduced to making fun of the size of another candidate’s hands. Like the party as a whole, he had no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and nothing he tried seemed to work.

To be clear, Republican voters don’t dislike Rubio. In fact, he still gets higher approval ratings than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both of whom are crushing him at the ballot box (see here or here). He’s just not what those voters want right now. He probably would be the most formidable general election candidate. But Republican voters don’t seem to care. If the price of expressing their anger is that the Republican nominee loses in November, they seem okay with that. So as the party gets torn to pieces, the young man in a hurry who was supposed to be its savior is just one more casualty.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 - Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Rubio ran a horrible campaign that got childish when his back was against the wall as he resorted to middle school trash talk.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | March 10, 2016 | Reply


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