Rubio’s Weaknesses Now Impossible to Overlook

The Florida senator was never the hope of the Republican Party so many wanted him to be.

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 5
Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 5 (Gage Skidmore)

It only took 22 defeats, but the commentariat is finally willing to concede that Marco Rubio has failed as a presidential candidate.

Readers of the Atlantic Sentinel will not be surprised. When Rubio announced his candidacy in April of last year, we pointed out that he had no natural constituency in his party. FiveThirtyEight now argues much the same. The Florida senator has been trying to appeal to everyone, from relatively moderate Republicans to hard-right Tea Party voters, and ended up pleasing no one. You cannot very well try to make a name for yourself by leading an ambitious immigration reform effort and then turn around when it stalls and claim you’re actually a hardliner without putting off some voters.

This goes to the heart of Rubio’s failure. His candidacy assumed that voters would be so taken in by the fact that he’s young, Hispanic and well-spoken that they wouldn’t pay attention to anything he’s done (which is virtually nothing of consequence) or said.

If Republican consultants thought all they needed to do to appeal to young and Hispanic voters after losing them in droves in 2012 was find a young and Hispanic candidate, they were clearly deluding themselves.

Rubio’s policies, as we have argued, are unimaginative. His foreign policy is more alarmist than George W. Bush’s. His economic program is a throwback to the 1980s. He has a 100 percent approval rating from the pro-gun National Rifle Association. He has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality. He would allow for no exceptions, not even for incest or rape, to ban abortion. Yet this man was supposed to represent the future of the Republican Party?

Sure, compared to the likes of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Rubio is a moderate. But that’s like saying in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king.

Add to that Rubio’s lazy campaign — betting on “online outreach” and television interviews rather than doing the hard work of building an infrastructure in the early voting states and recruiting volunteers — and the only wonder is that reporters nevertheless took him seriously for so long.

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