Marco Rubio’s problem? He’s hasn’t done anything. Yes, he is skilled at talking and at winning elections, but he has a weak record of accomplishing.
Rubio is scrambling to be the GOP presidential candidate who benefits the most from Scott Walker’s dropping out of the race. As I wrote the other day, a big factor for Republican hopefuls is where money and support drift as weaker candidates leave. As they drop out, liberating resources, the market shares of the remaining candidates shift, reshaping the campaign.
Marco Rubio turned in a good performance at the debate. Figures like David Brooks are talking him up. Rubio has raised a lot of money. He talks loudly about his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. In the debate, he sought to impress by talking tough on foreign policy and trotting out his immigration plan.
Look closely, and you’ll notice that Rubio is an Obama-type candidate. His career path is remarkably similar to the president’s, whom he despises. A brief stay in the state legislature, then Senate election, and then . . . (before youth fades) the presidency? Rubio’s ambition is propelling him upward before he is ready.
Meanwhile, his lack of patience and success as a senator tells us what his presidential shortcomings would be. Rubio wishes to leave the Senate without having figured out how to score legislative victories. He hasn’t bothered to develop the relationships or negotiating skills that our interdependent style of government makes so necessary. Being president would minister to Rubio’s self-image, but, when it comes to serving the nation, how effective could he be?
On immigration, for instance, Rubio is cogent because he once helped sponsor an ambitious bipartisan immigration-reform bill. This was the impressive measure the Senate passed back in 2013. At the time, the Huffington Post heralded it as “the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation’s inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.”
Republican senators proved powerless, however, to bring their more uncooperative House brethren along, so the initiative that Rubio and others had worked on died. Now Rubio is touting his own reform plan that he asserts he could make a reality. Given a president’s dependence on Congress, it’s doubtful he could make his claim come true. Another young president who’s a weak party leader is the last thing this nation needs.
Yet Rubio is proud of his determination to quit the Senate in hopes of snagging the presidency. Last week, he justified his failure to attend Senate by lashing out at a wrong-headed Washington establishment. Though he hasn’t been able to alter that establishment as a Senator, he claims he can–if only Americans give him a bigger job.
Meanwhile, in the telling area of political endorsements, his fellow Floridan, Jeb Bush, continues to lead. FiveThirtyEight ranks Bush at the top of the list in gaining the support of other established Republicans. Rubio is near the bottom, indicating that Republican leaders view him much more skeptically than the media does.
Transcript of Senator Rubio’s remarks on his absenteeism
RUBIO: . . . I’m proud to serve in the United States Senate. You know, when I ran five years ago, the entire leadership of my party in Washington lined up against me.
But I’m glad I won. And I’m glad that I ran, because this country’s headed in the wrong direction. And if we keep electing the same people, nothing is going to change.
And you’re right, I have missed some votes, and I’ll tell you why . . . Because in my years in the Senate, I’ve figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people.
You have millions of people in this country living paycheck to paycheck, and nothing is being done about it. We are about to leave our children with $18 trillion in — in — in debt, and they’re about to raise the debt limit again.
We have a world that grows increasingly dangerous, and we are eviscerating our military spending and signing deals with Iran. And these — if this thing continues, we are going to be the first Americans to leave our children worse off than ourselves.
That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate, I’m not running for re-election, and I’m running for president because I know this: unless we have the right president, we cannot make America fulfill its potential, but with the right person in office, the 21st century can be the greatest era that our nation has ever known.