Friday, March 27, 2015

Predicting Character: Marco Rubio In the Shadow Of Others

(Update below)
Just as the Candidate Clown Car of 2016 is making room for the likes of Texan blowhard Gohmert (no wait, after the laughter continued for 12 straight hours, he dismissed the trial balloon), this little tidbit appeared on the St. Pete sigh Tampa Bay Times website:

Marco Rubio has reserved Freedom Tower in downtown Miami for an undisclosed event April 13, which appears to be a potential, if not likely, spot for Florida's junior senator to announce his candidacy for president...
...Rubio, 43, has been preparing for a potential presidential run for at least a year. While behind in most early polls, he has generated considerable buzz as a top-tier contender who offers the party a fresh face, foreign policy experience, charisma and substance...

Rubio has long been touted as a potential Republican candidate for the White House - since he won the Senate seat in 2010 - strictly on his symbolic value rather than merit.  Hispanic at a time the Republicans are roundly despised for their anti-immigration policies (that goes into dog-whistle racial doublespeak against Hispanics way too often), he was and still is viewed as a means to convince the growing Hispanic vote to sway GOP Conservative.

However, the rest of that article report is a bit off.  While he would offer a fresh face - at 43, he'll be one of the youngest candidates at the debates - those other descriptives of "foreign policy experience", "charisma", and "substance" do not exactly fit his resume.

Rubio's foreign policy experience includes accusing Democrats who avoided a politically-tinged speech by visiting Israeli PM Netanyahu of "hurting Israel," then turning around and signing a toxic and possibly illegal letter with other GOP Senators threatening Iran during our State Department's efforts to negotiate a safe nuclear weapons ban deal.

Rubio's charisma is about as charming as any politician's, but he's not especially noted for it on the Congenial level that Reagan had.  His various appearances on television aren't regularly noted or reviled one way or another except for his big moment: giving a post-State of the Union counter-speech.  Which flamed out when the media and public mocked him for sucking on a water bottle like his life depended on it.

Rubio's substance is essentially his biography: his Hispanic heritage.  The first Cuban-American to serve as State Speaker in the Florida Legislature.  The fact he was basically called on by the Party to draw up a more conservative immigration package in 2013 to counter Obama's more open policies is all he's really got to show for his efforts.  But that heritage translated into little: those efforts went nowhere when the party leadership decided to double-down on the obstruction after 2012's electoral failures, and refused Rubio's suggestions.  That he didn't have enough power or allies among his fellow Senators (or House Republicans) to press the matter shows how ineffective Rubio has been.

If I had to write up a Barber-esque prediction for Rubio, it'd be like this:

Marco Rubio - Senator, Florida
Positives: Represents one of the largest populated states in the nation.  Had made good-faith efforts to enact immigration reforms that a more racist party has decided to ignore.  Had been repeatedly touted and praised by the major GOP cheerleaders as a "serious" figure (at least it when profits them).
Negatives: Still a relative newcomer to the political stage.  Has little in the way of legislative success to hang a hat on.  Republicans habitually back candidates who "paid their dues" over the younger, fresher candidates, which means that even Santorum might have an edge over Rubio.  In terms of policies, he toes the party line backing tax cuts, banning abortion and gay marriage, denying climate change is real even as his home is getting flooded out, and an aggressive foreign policy that boils down to "bomb Iran and anybody else."  Which means if he survives the harsh Far Right primaries, he still has to sell an increasingly unpopular platform to a general voting public, and he doesn't have anything that shows he can moderate those views.  Worst of all: there is no guarantee Rubio's Hispanic background will convince the Hispanic voters to side with him in enough numbers for him to win the White House.
Chances: Officially laughable.  His "mentor" Jeb Bush is still the presumed front-runner in terms of the Establishment money-people, which crimps his own positive of being a Favorite Son of Florida.  Rubio's attempts to actually work on immigration reform may bring on the haters in the Far Right who would disagree with what he tried to pass.  He doesn't have anything else that sets him apart from  the rest of the expected candidate field.  The only thing Rubio does bring to the table is that he's the SANE Cuban Hispanic candidate for the White House compared to wingnut Ted Cruz.  But even Cruz is going to hog the spotlight.  In every respect, Rubio is a second-tier candidate hidden behind the more publicly touted likes of Jeb, Scott Walker, Chris Christie (whom we haven't heard much lately due to ongoing scandals), Mike Huckabee, and even long-shot Cruz.  If Jeb doesn't win the primaries, Rubio at least can position himself as a ticket-balancer for the Veep spot (by law, Presidential candidate and VP candidate on the same ticket can't be from the same state: it's why Cheney pretended he was from Wyoming after living in Dubya's Texas for years).
Character Chart: His biography and political history point to someone ambitious and smart but ideologically hide-bound and unwilling to rock the boat.  That puts him in Active-Negative with a Republican Party platform that only an Active-Negative would love.

UPDATE (4/13) Rubio did announce today, and in an interesting bit announced he would not run for the Senate seat (he was up for re-election 2016) which suddenly makes it an open contest.  The lack of an incumbent combined with the likelihood of a larger Democratic-leaning voter turnout makes this a VEERRRRY interesting Senate race.

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