The Marco Rubio Show (Second Thoughts)

Sen. Marco Rubio addresses a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, 20 December 2015. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

A murmur arises, via the New York Times:

Inexperience and inattention to detail on the ground can have a tangible cost. Melody Slater is a former Lee County chairwoman for the now-defunct presidential campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Shortly after Mr. Walker dropped out, Mr. Rubio’s campaign announced that Ms. Slater was one of several of Mr. Walker’s backers who had signed on with them.

But now she says she is having second thoughts. “I had three campaigns call me that day―Huckabee, Cruz and Rubio,” Ms. Slater said in an interview, explaining that she agreed to endorse Mr. Rubio only at his campaign’s request. She said she still liked Mr. Rubio and may indeed caucus for him.

But she cautioned that she was also drawn to Mr. Cruz’s Christian values.

“You’ve got to be careful about what you say, don’t you?” Ms. Slater mused.


Madness reigns? Chaos? Something about inexperience, and maybe the bauble of an innovative Iowa ground strategy that has the convenience of being really, really easy for the candidate and also happens to be less expensive?

No, really:

In the meantime, advisers are relying on a robust digital outreach program in the early-voting states and using local and national television to increase Mr. Rubio’s visibility. When he campaigns, he tends to eschew small towns and venues for larger population centers and media markets.

“Exposure is Marco’s friend,” said his pollster, Whit Ayers. “And exposure is the enemy of a whole lot of the rest of these candidates.”

Campaign advisers readily dismiss as superficial the older quantifiable signs of seriousness about Iowa’s tradition-bound caucuses, like lining up endorsements in all 99 counties or dotting the state with campaign offices. They refused even to divulge the number of staff members on the campaign’s payroll in Iowa, dismissing such details as the preoccupation of obsessives in the news media and on rival campaigns.

And did the pollster really just try a political version of no such thing as bad news?

Meanwhile, Steve Benen offers a second thought on second thoughts:

This is obviously just one person, but I suspect one of the scariest phrases in the political lexicon for Marco Rubio right now is “having second thoughts.” Indeed, though

I tend to think too much is made of prediction markets, in which “traders bet on event outcomes,” it’s worth noting that the Florida senator has seen investors start to lose confidence in his eventual nomination.

The thing is that it’s not hard to come back to, say, Elias Isquith’s point about the junior U.S. Senator from Florida:

Despite at one point being seen as too right-wing to make it to the Senate (this was before the Tea Party really got going; a simpler, more innocent time) Rubio has been described throughout his presidential campaign as coming from the party’s supposedly reasonable, establishment-friendly wing. He is, we’re told, one of the “adults.”

Back when the campaign was largely concerned with the issue of immigration, and when Donald Trump’s rank demagoguery was the standard against which all the other Republicans were measured, this was a defensible characterization. But now that the campaign has, in the wake of the Paris attacks, become almost exclusively about ISIS and counter-terrorism, Rubio’s moderate label is wholly undeserved. Moderate? He is anything but.

As establishment Republicans scramble to find a candidate, we might wonder why they think Marco Rubio is their star. Between recurring suggestions of inexperience, an accompaniment gaggle of gaffes, and a hardline pitch to social conservatives that will complicate his prospective pivot, the GOP establishment might well be looking for one last bargain with the right wing that would steer the Party into flaming wreckage. The hardest question to answer is Mr. Rubio’s appeal to the general, and it is easy enough to expect a clumsy and uncoordinated pivot.

Rumors of any candidate’s demise are inherently overstated in a cycle like this one, and Mr. Rubio is not by any measure on his way out. Still, though, neither ought we dismiss the first murmurs of second thoughts; there might be a time soon enough when we wonder if maybe it’s true that the Rubio Iowa strategy is how he sealed his electoral fate.

Either way, you know. After all, he is something of a career politician, and might well yet prove to be a seasoned genius.


Image note: Sen. Marco Rubio addresses a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, 20 December 2015. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

Benen, Steve. “Rubio backers confront ‘second thoughts'”. 18 September 2015.

Isquith, Elias. “The disturbing truth about Marco Rubio: The establishment’s favorite is running an extremist, Islamophobic campaign”. Salon. 21 November 2015.

Peters, Jeremy W. “Fretful Backers Push Marco Rubio to Pick a Must-Win Early Primary State”. The New York Times. 17 December 2015.

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