Scott Walker just exited the Republican presidential race, so who gains? The only other solid conservative with a serious claim to electability: Marco Rubio.
Someone might wanna tell Vox's Dylan Matthews there's about five or ten other "solid conservatives" with a serious claim to electability. (well, not really, because none of them are electable /rimshot)
It's too early to declare that Rubio has sewn up the Republican establishment. Jeb Bush is still kicking, and Chris Christie has a very low but ultimately nonzero chance of catching on. But at the moment, Rubio is the dark horse — and if insiders unite behind him, he may have a shot at beating Donald Trump.
Considering that Trump has pretty much cornered the market on the anti-immigrant voting base of the Republican Party, Rubio does not have much of a shot beating Teh Don. The only real argument Matthews has about backing Rubio is that Marco is the only "traditional" candidate whose post-debate polling numbers have gone up, even though Rubio's polling still doesn't break over ten percent support.
And where Matthews is promoting the positive spin, we have Matt Yglesias (also at Vox) pitching the idea in another direction by trying to convince Jeb? Bush to drop out for the good of the party:
It would, of course, be totally ridiculous for Jeb Bush to drop out of the 2016 Republican primary this week. He's got a ton of money in the bank, a ton more money in his super PAC's bank, he's ahead of all the real politicians in national primary polling, and he leads the field in endorsements. If he sticks it out, Donald Trump will probably fade. The Ben Carson boomlet will probably vanish. The nascent Carly Fiorina boomlet will keep going for a while and then she'll come back down to earth too. Bush has the cash to gut it out and try to prevail against all comers and the odds of it working are at least decent.
But if he cares about his family legacy, the good of the Republican Party and the ideological principles he espouses, he should drop out as soon as possible and endorse Marco Rubio...
The sane argument for talking Jeb* out of the campaign is the simple fact he's messing up and being miserable about it. Telling him to do it so someone else gets to be on the stage is gonna be like a shiv to the gut: when you look at his biography of coping in Dubya's and Poppy's shadows, trying to win the Presidency on his own terms is all his ego's got left to look forward to.
So why Rubio, Mr. Yglesias? Why not Kasich - as much an Establishment figure with a more impressive resume - or even Lindsey Graham - okay, I'm pulling your leg there - to back?
Marco Rubio, by contrast, is a dynamic public speaker and gutsy political risk-taker (recall that he got to the Senate by beating a sitting governor in a primary) who impresses staffers on both sides of the aisle who've worked with him. Rubio performs better than Bush in head-to-head polling against Clinton.
Okay, I dunno if you paid attention to the 2010 election, but the thing is Rubio won because A) Crist jumped out of the Republican Party that no longer loved him to run as an Independent, B) Crist and the Democratic challenger Greene kind of split their vote making it easier for Rubio to win, and C) in that Tea Party driven election cycle even a dead dog running for the Republican ticket would have won. Don't go giving Rubio props for a skill he don't have.
If you're talking about political risk-taking, Rubio was tasked to give the Republicans an immigration reform package in 2013 so they could begin work post-2012 to build outreach to Latino voters. When the Far Right anti-immigrant actors of the GOP balked, Rubio took the incredible risk... of curling up in a fetal position and letting his own bills get killed. Not much risk there.
To be fair to Rubio, he's only been on the national stage for five years. Maybe Yglesias is including Rubio's tenure as a Florida legislator and House Speaker, but even then Rubio doesn't have much of a track record - outside of the failed immigration push, he has gone invisible in the Senate - to crow about. Calling him "better" at politics than Jeb^ is a bit of a reach.
And of course, David Brooks - wait, all you seven readers of this blog, I am not here to praise him - has to go and say this about Rubio:
...Instead, the party will veer on a course midway between outsider and establishment. It will probably end up with some hybrid candidate — sharp of tongue, gifted in self-expression and yet still anchored in the world of reality.
That’s where Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio come in. So far, Fiorina has looked like the most impressive candidate. She has a genius for creating signature moments. (“If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton’s.”) But her spotty record at Hewlett-Packard probably means she can’t start at the top of the ticket.
Rubio is young and thus uncorrupted...
That's the point where I f-cking choked. Rubio is about as corrupt as every other Republican candidate on the primary trail. And this is where the failure of research - the failure of even healthy skepticism - betrays the Beltway elites: Marco Rubio has some pretty scary skeletons in his closet related to his not-so-secret habit of spending other people's money for personal purchases. There's a reason why Mitt Romney rejected going with Rubio as his Veep choice in 2012, and it has to do with Rubio's vetting uncovering some of those bad habits.
There's still the very real possibility that if Rubio does win the Republican nomination, that sort of scandal is going to go national in a way the party leaders won't like. It's surprising they're even letting him do this well.
Here's the thing about the Beltway media once again: desperate for a likable politician on the Republican side of things with a dash of charisma and the ability to sell a hard-line Far Right social/tax cut agenda of doom, they are scrambling for the best possible Stepford Smiler left on the stage. There's that "young" impression Brooks is yearning for, the mirage of "experience" that Yglesias admires, the sheer implausibility of Matthews' "electability".
The echo chamber of the upper echelon of our national news punditry keeps telling itself the same thing, thinking they're doing so with fresh words and excited voices. They're just reinforcing the same bad ideas and perceptions. It's not helping them, and it's not really helping inform the people they're sending these messages to.