For months, journalists and donors who have had private meetings with Marco Rubio have known that his rhetoric is not only repetitive but seems very insincere. As one New Hampshire journalist pointed out after hearing a Rubio endorsement pitch, he seemed to have no soul. Does this make him a risk for the GOP to nominate?
Technically, no, at least not to those who have been following him closely throughout his national political career. Those who have been watching realized long ago that he’s more electable than Donald Trump, but that’s about it. He’s less electable than his moderate Establishment cohorts – John Kasich, Chris, Christie, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina. He’s even less electable than the conservative firebrands – Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Those of us who have been following closely enough have known for a while that he is likable… and that’s about it. He doesn’t have the resume to beat the Democrats. He doesn’t have a history of consistency that would help him beat the Democrats. He doesn’t have the ethical background required to beat the Democrats.
Let’s look at three (though there are many) of the reasons that Marco Rubio is far from being the most electable GOP candidate in the general election.
Since this is getting the beat down on mainstream media, we won’t linger on this one. In case you haven’t seen the GOP debate debacle, here’s the relevant snippet:
As the article below points out, this isn’t the first time that Rubio has feigned his humanity inconsistently to the point that he appears to be a “robocandidate.” This is the type of weakness that Republicans will be able to exploit against Hillary Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee… unless we give them someone who can be painted as even less sincere than she is.
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) February 7, 2016
If this were the only thing against him, it’s possible to overcome in the general election. Unfortunately for Rubio and the Republican party, it gets worse…
Absolutely Zero Accomplishments
Again, this is another weakness that has been playing out recently. It was asked about during the GOP debate and if it weren’t for the robocandidate glitch, it would likely be the big storyline that came out of the debate in the battle between Chris Christie and Rubio. The moderators called him out on it, Rubio replied, and Christie seized the opportunity to attack.
What they referred to is this video by Christie that highlights failed candidate Rick Santorum’s inability to explain what Rubio had accomplished.
The problem isn’t Santorum. The problem is that Rubio himself cannot name accomplishments. Christie rightly pointed out that one of the big accomplishments that Rubio mentioned was a bill he helped to craft but that Rubio failed to vote on when it hit the Senate floor. Again, this is a problem that Clinton has. She, too, has very few things she can list as tangible accomplishments despite being First Lady, a New York Senator, and Secretary of State. This will be an attack point for Republicans unless they nominate the only candidate who has actually accomplished less than her.
The Wrong Mix of Pragmatism and Conservatism
There are two different dynamics that compel Independents to vote for a Republican candidate. The first is the dynamic between passion and pragmatism. The second is between being a extreme or a moderate. How the two dynamics mix determine whether or not an Independent voter will choose them.
For example, Senator Barack Obama mixed passion and liberal extremism. He was unashamed of his liberal tendencies and amplified those tendencies with a passionate delivery of his message. Ronald Reagan did the same thing, only from an opposite perspective on ideology. He was passionate and he was very conservative.
The other side of the coin gave us George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. While Republicans want to paint Bush as a conservative and Democrats want to paint Clinton as a liberal, their initial campaigns bemoaned moderation. They were ideologically polarizing on a handful of issues, but they were able to temper those issues with pragmatism that made them seem like the most effective choice at the time.
Marco Rubio is trying to toe the line between being pragmatic and being conservative. It can’t work. A successful general election candidate cannot be the voice of unity while exuding the mantle of passionate conservatism at the same time. It’s like mixing Kool-Aid with buttermilk. Both have their appeal, but they cancel each other’s positive traits out to leave us with something undrinkable. That’s what we have with Rubio. He’s trying to be a right-wing conservative pragmatist. To win the general election, you have to be a pragmatic moderate or a passionate conservative (or liberal).
He’s likable. Dan Quayle was likable. Mitt Romney was likable. Sarah Palin was likable. Being likable only wins elections if you have the goods to back it up. Marco Rubio does not have the goods. Contrary to the persistent myth, Rubio would lose big to the Democrats if he’s the nominee.