The Strange “Rubio Resurgence” Article At National Review
Marco Rubio is back! Or at least on the comeback trail for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination. That’s the take away from Eliana Johnson’s piece this morning at National Review Online.
Having read the piece I’m far less convinced than Johnson is about Rubio’s supposed “resurgence”. Sure he’s doing some talk shows and cutting Spanish language ads for a candidate in Colorado but beyond that the evidence of a comeback is…minimal. And by “minimal” I mean “non-existent”.
Before we discuss the “comeback”, such as it is, we should look at where Rubio was and why he fell from that place.
Shortly after the 2012 elections Marco Rubio was seen as the GOP front runner in polling. Now polling that far out, or even this far out, from the actual campaign is useless but it’s what we have.
Here’s the RCP “poll of polls” from December 2012 (at bottom) to November of 2013.
Rubio went from leading to…not leading. What could have possible occurred around the summer of 2013 that might account for Rubio’s disappearance? Oh, right. He went from opposing amnesty to championing it. You can follow his collapse in polling here.
But according to Johnson, this doesn’t merit a mention in the comeback narrative. You see Rubio’s immigration problem isn’t as bad as Jeb Bush’s. In fact, it’s not even really a problem.
Among the party’s most conservative voters, the former Florida governor is handicapped by his support for immigration reform and for the Common Core educational standards, against which the tea-party base is waging a vocal revolt; Bush lacks the conservative bona fides that would help conservatives overlook his own support for a sweeping immigration overhaul.
Rubio took a significant risk on immigration as part of a bipartisan group of eight senators who joined to propose a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s laws; controversially in the eyes of some Republicans, their plan included a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Though the effort ultimately failed, Rubio’s position is likely to benefit him among the party’s establishment forces: The business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, has long supported immigration reform along the lines proposed by Rubio and the Gang of Eight.
So amnesty is a liability for Bush but Rubio is risk taker who has Chamber of Commerce and some imaginary credibility in the bank with conservatives. (Spoiler, it’s a liability for both with GOP voters)
This is notion that Rubio has credit built up with conservatives that will offset the damage of his amnesty reversal is merely asserted with no actual evidence. Yes, conservatives supported Rubio over Charlie Crist. That was of course at a time when Rubio was seen as an outsider who opposed Crist, most notably over…amnesty (Rubio opposed, Crist supported).
Johnson relies on some odd sources to backup her claim that Rubio is still a tea party favorite but none odder than this one.
“[Rubio] talks about economic growth, but he also talks about kitchen-table issues,” says the Chamber’s Reed, a longtime political consultant who ran Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. “He talks about foreign policy, and he travels the world. He’s building a strong résumé, and he has the ability to be forward-looking, youthful, and positive. Those are sharp contrasts with the rest of the field.”
Yes, nothing says “tea party hero” like kind words from a US Chamber of Commerce operative who ran Bob Dole’s campaign. If anyone has his finger on the pulse of the GOP grassroots it’s him.
As Johnson notes, Rubio has always been more of a hybrid candidate than a true outsider. He’s a career politician who rose to be Speaker of the House in Florida (not normally considered an outsider position). In fact, Rubio’s only real connection with the tea party was a matter of timing of chance. He’s run for the Senate came just as the tea party was developing and he had the good fortune to challenge Charlie Crist just as the GOP grassroots were ready to rebel against the party establishment after devastating defeats in 2006 and 2008. And Rubio’s challenge got more than a little help from the establishment in the form of one Jeb Bush.
So Rubio is not making any sort of comeback with actual GOP voters and he was never on the outs with the GOP establishment (he simply wasn’t their first choice). So in what way is this a “resurgence”?