Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marco Rubio: Fresh Face, Same Stale Ideas


So Marco Rubio's campaign slogan is "Marco Rubio: A New American Century." I guess the only question that begs to be answered is which century, the 19th or the 20th?

Because while Rubio's good looks and youthful appearance may be a breath of fresh air for a Republican Party whose average voter age is somewhere just north of, say, 60, his ideas are about as predictable and old-fashioned as a Barry Goldwater campaign ad.

Yes, he's Hispanic, but he's Hispanic the same way Ben Carson is black; that is to say his story, while novel, is unlikely to gain much traction within the Hispanic community, especially after the way in which he distanced himself from the bi-partisan Senate bill which he coauthored that would've given a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The painful reality for Rubio is that once you get passed the pretty face, his positions, while popular within his Party's base, will prove to be his undoing in the general election. He's against gay marriage, he's a global warming denier, he's an unabashed supply-sider and he's against immigration reform, or, as it's referred to among conservatives, amnesty.

As if that wasn't a heavy enough cross for him to bear, his story - first term, charismatic senator - is eerily similar to that of another first term, charismatic senator who went on to become president. That man is Barack Obama, or, as he is more commonly known among the far Right, the antichrist, Kenyan, Muslim socialist who hates America. I can't wait to see Rubio's reaction during his first debate when Chris Wallace asks him why the country should elect another first-term senator as president knowing how well the last one worked out. I'm thinking a Ralph Kramden "hamina-hamina" moment is in the offing.

Then again, now that I think about it, I don't think Rubio's experience, or lack there of, will be a huge issue for the base. Just like Ted Cruz being born in Canada won't be that big of a deal among the birthers. Let's face it, when it comes to Obama, it was never about his inexperience or country of origin. He could've been a three-term governor from the heart of Dixie and a direct descendent of George Washington and they still would've hated him. From day one of his administration he has driven them up the proverbial wall.

No, Rubio's real problem with the base will be his perceived lack of sincerity. The wingnuts on the Right still haven't forgiven him for that immigration bill. No amount of backtracking is likely to heal that wound. But let's say Rubio does mend the fences enough to pacify the base and he actually gets the nod, he still has to win the general.

And that's his Catch 22. The further to the right he veers, the more extreme he becomes to the general electorate. This is the same problem that plagued the Romney campaign in 2012. Romney had to move so far to the right to get the nomination he was never able to successfully pivot back to the center.

Indeed, this is the real dilemma facing the GOP in 2016. No candidate can secure the nomination without the support of the base and getting it requires taking the most extreme positions possible. That is the primary reason Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite to win the general. Democrats typically fare better in presidential elections while Republicans tend to prevail in midterms.

Marco Rubio can dress himself up as the second coming of JFK for all he likes. In the end, all he really is is a less insane version of Ted Cruz. Which means he'll lose by five million votes instead of eight.

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