On Mr. Rubio and his Election Chances

Wednesday 28 October is the “Economics” debate for the Republican Party1)As opposed to the previous debates? Yes, I know. Contain yourself. Lots of the hot-take pundits see this as Jeb!’s2)Say what you will about Mr. Bush, but he is a gift to all of us who enjoy a little syntax humor.  last stand. And they may not be entirely wrong. The big money folks got had by the Karl Rove crowd in the last election; as to what happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to “defeat” President Obama has yet to be explained. Though none of us will ever forget that amazing clip of Karl Rove freaking out on the Fox News screaming that the election results were wrong, as if his livelihood depended upon it or something. These big money folks didn’t acquire this kind of wealth by repeating expensive mistake-investments over and over again, so therefore, it is fair to presume that Jeb! is on a shorter leash than his establishment cohorts from 2012.

When it comes to Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump, each has made it clear why people should vote for them through their anti-establishment message. Jeb! has yet to create a compelling narrative. He seems like a nice enough man, but cautiously criticizing President Obama has not created a sufficiently compelling narrative to get people to vote for him. He has run a campaign as if he wants to be trustee of the federal government, which I would distinguish from leading nation’s people into the 21st Century. I do not envision3)of course I could be wrong, this comes from the cat that thought Scott Walker had a good shot at this thing. Hey, don’t judge. Nate Silver did too, and he is much better at political prognostication than most a scenario in which Mr. Bush becomes the front runner once again.

 

Which brings us to Mr. Rubio

Mr. Rubio is the establishment’s next best chance to win the nomination. I began to take him seriously after seeing this clip in which he discusses the Black Lives Matter movement in a cogent way:

 

 

I am not convinced any of his rivals can do that, by that I mean speak about the BLM movement without making me cringe4)I am not claiming that his answer was perfect, just that it wasn’t horribly offensive.

 

Now watch this:

 

Personable, right? At risk of irritating nearly every reader, there are easy comparisons to draw between Mr. Rubio and Candidate Obama from 2008. From age to speaking ability to attractive personal story to relatively little national governing experience, there are undeniable similarities5)Obviously, there are different policy proposals.

 

But can Mr. Rubio win?

Now let us recall 2008 for a moment, in particular the Democratic Primary. If only those that caucus experience had voted in the primary process, then Sen. Clinton would have won easily. It was Mr. Obama’s ability to draw first time voters into the process that catapulted him to the White House6)and his subsequent inability to keep those voters engaged that left him with a Republican controlled Congress.

Eight years hence, each party now has a similar dynamic. A poll of Iowa democrats came out over the weekend showing Sec. Clinton with a commanding lead in Iowa:

 

The Bernie folks, rightly or wrongly, take issue with the methodology of the poll because the sample size is made of democrats that have participated in the past two Iowa Caucuses. The Bernie crowd believes that the campaign is mobilizing first-time voters in a similar manner that Mr. Obama did in 2008. There is no method (as far as I know) of polling first-time voters7)even if you could, does it make sense to rely on them?. If Bernie is going to win, first-time voters will be the only way.

..This applies to Mr. Rubio as well, as you will see. Buzzfeed wrote up a great summary of the dissonance between how the media portrays Mr. Rubio (“The Frontrunner” “The Republican Savior”) and his disappointing poll numbers. The media narrative for the Republican nomination operates under the assumption that Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump will no longer be in the race come caucus time8)If you can go on a book tour and improve your poll numbers, why drop out?. To some degree, this is valid. Recall that at this time in 2012 former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain was the big front-runner for the nomination, only to leave hastily once information about his personal indiscretions began to leak out in November. Stuck in the forest of the day-to-day politicking, it is difficult to remember that the election is still more than a year away. Plenty of time for plenty more to happen.

 

Immigration and Mr. Rubio

Regardless, this tea party flavor-infused Republican party has very little tolerance for moderation on key issues, one of which is immigration. Mr. Rubio tried to lead a bipartisan coalition to pass an immigration bill, only for it to blow up in his face politically, and he has been running away from it ever since.  The Republican party may have hit a Catch-22 where the candidate needs to take a hard line on the immigration, but that hard line will prevent the candidate from receiving enough popular support to win a national election.

Is there a way out of this dilemma? Sure, but it will not be easy. Certain candidates are taking the easy road on immigration by playing off of people’s fear of the unknown. Mr. Rubio does not have to do that, but he does need to signal to those scared of a massive immigration influx that he understands/will address their fears. In the modern media age, how does one hold people’s attention long enough to make such a nuanced point? Mr. Obama was forced into making a speech on race after Rev. Wright upset much of the establishment with his pointed remarks, Mr. Rubio should follow the same course. Instead of attempting to avoid the matter, he needs to face the immigration fear-mongers head on. Leaders Lead.

 

How Mr. Rubio takes the crown

Resolving the immigration issue is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for Mr. Rubio to win. To cut to the chase, he needs more votes. Take a look at this poll:

 

To be frank, the needed votes do not look like they are coming from the Republican electorate reflected in the polling we see dominated by Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson. He needs, like ’08 Candidate Obama and ’16 Sen. Sanders, to bring more first-time voters to the polls, possibly a lot of them.

Luckily for Mr. Rubio, there are a lot of potential voters out there just waiting to be inspired. Two-thirds of the electorate did not vote in the 2014 mid-term election. Think about that for a moment; significantly more than half of the electorate was so turned-off to the political process that they could not even bother to vote last year.  Don’t believe me?

The establishment politicians like to blame the voters for their apathy, but that is just a lame cop-out. Voters need, and want, to be inspired. Not since President Bush’s message of “Compassionate Conservatism” has the Republican party tried to inspire the populace9)nor have they won the Presidency. Government spending (seemingly the only issue of the recent, pre-Trump Republican party) speaks to such a small part of the voting public, that it just seems nonsensical that this is the dominate topic of conversation for our Republican friends.

Here’s a neat fact, more than 50% of the American workforce earns less than $30,000/year. Do you think these folks care about the government budget? They, and probably up to 80% of the population want to know how, if we give you our vote, you will improve our lives.

What Ms. Palin dismissed as that “hopey changey stuff” is exactly what you need, Mr. Rubio. This is not a contest over whom can hand out the most entitlements to the voters10)as it has been characterized by previous candidates, but a challenge over whom can inspire. Think Reagan, think Kennedy, think Lincoln, and rise above the cynicism. There is no other way to get those first-time voters to the polls.

I can only prescribe what to do, not how.  There’s a big difference between winning and not losing.

The Republicans have spent too many years now telling us what they aren’t. Now is the time to tell us what you are. Go big or you’ll be heading home, in defeat. Best of luck, Senator.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. As opposed to the previous debates? Yes, I know. Contain yourself.
2. Say what you will about Mr. Bush, but he is a gift to all of us who enjoy a little syntax humor.
3. of course I could be wrong, this comes from the cat that thought Scott Walker had a good shot at this thing. Hey, don’t judge. Nate Silver did too, and he is much better at political prognostication than most
4. I am not claiming that his answer was perfect, just that it wasn’t horribly offensive
5. Obviously, there are different policy proposals
6. and his subsequent inability to keep those voters engaged that left him with a Republican controlled Congress
7. even if you could, does it make sense to rely on them?
8. If you can go on a book tour and improve your poll numbers, why drop out?
9. nor have they won the Presidency
10. as it has been characterized by previous candidates
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