Sunday, January 03, 2016

The GOP's Misplaced Hopes in Marco Rubio

The GOP establishment continues to be tormented by the thought of a Donald Trump nomination - Ted Cruz isn't really any less scary - and clings to the hope that Marco Rubio - who has shown himself only too wiling to prostitute himself to extremists in the party base - will somehow save the party from the Frankenstein monster that helped create.  I don't like Rubio (or any of GOP contenders for that matter) and see the GOP establishment's hopes perhaps misplaced.  A column in the New York Times underlines why.  Here are excerpts:

MATH was never my strongest subject, so maybe I’m just not crunching the numbers right.
But the more I stare at them, the less sense Marco Rubio makes.  Rubio as the front-runner, I mean. As the probable Republican nominee.

Iowa’s less than a month away, and in two recent polls of Republican voters there, he’s a distant third, far behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

So he’s killing it in New Hampshire, right?  Wrong. A survey from two weeks ago had him second to Trump there, but another, just days earlier, put him in third place — after Trump and Cruz, again.

Rubio can’t claim a singularly formidable campaign organization, with a remarkably robust platoon of ground troops. His fund-raising hasn’t been exceptional.

His promise seems to lie instead in his biography as the son of hard-working Cuban immigrants, in his good looks, in the polish of his oratory, in the nimbleness with which he debates.

And in this: Reasonable people can’t stomach the thought of Trump or Cruz as the nominee. We can’t accept what that would say about America, or what that could mean for it. Rubio is the flawed, rickety lifeboat we cling to, the amulet we clutch. He’ll prevail because he must. The alternative is simply too perverse (Trump) or too cruel (Cruz).

Because this is his first national campaign, reporters (and opponents) are digging into his past more vigorously than ever, and it’s unclear how much fodder it holds and how much defense he’ll have to play.

Just last week, The Washington Post reported that in 2002, when he was the majority whip in the Florida House of Representatives, he used statehouse stationery to write a letter in support of a real estate license for his sister’s husband, who had served 12 years in federal prison for distributing $15 million worth of cocaine.

“Rubio’s inclusiveness can invite caricature,” Evan Osnos observed in The New Yorker in late November. “He considers himself a Catholic, but he attends two churches — an evangelical Protestant service on Saturdays and a Roman Catholic Mass on Sundays.”
He’s a pile of paradoxes. He’s a teetering stack of them.  By dint of his heritage, he’s supposed to represent a much-needed Republican bridge to Latinos. But many of his positions impede that, and several recent polls raise doubts about the strength of his appeal to Latino voters.

And he’s at sharp odds with millennials on a range of issues. Most of them favor same-sex marriage; he doesn’t. Most are wary of government surveillance; he’s one of its fiercest proponents. Unlike him, they want marijuana legalized. Unlike him, they want decisive government action against climate change.  And they’re not swayed by unwrinkled skin and a relatively full head of dark hair. 

But over the last three decades, no Republican or Democrat — with the exception of Bill Clinton — lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and survived that crisis in momentum to win the nomination. If that’s Rubio’s path, it’s an unusual one.

In an unusual year, yes. But as the wait for his candidacy to heat up lengthens, I wonder: Could he burn out before he ever catches fire?

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