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Monday, July 27, 2015

Candidate Profile: #3. Marco Rubio

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win
16. George Pataki
(15.5. James Gilmore)
15. Lindsey Graham
14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win
13. Rick Santorum
12. Mike Huckabee
11. Donald Trump
10. Bobby Jindal

Tier 2--So You're Saying There's a Chance!
9. Rick Perry
8. Ben Carson
7. Ted Cruz
6. John Kasich
5. Rand Paul
4. Chris Christie

And now it's time for the top tier: The Favorites! The third most likely Republican nominee is . . .

Marco Rubio, 44, Senator from Florida, 2011-current

Campaign Website and Slogan--marcorubio.com--"Are You Ready for a New American Century?"

PPFA Slogan--"Guys, I'm a Handsome Young Conservative Latino Hawk From Florida. What Else Do You Want??"

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +6.75 (Individual rights:+6; domestic issues: +8; economy: +5; foreign policy: +8). Wow, that's conservative! I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering he was 2012's Tea Party Express pick for Romney's VP and has been called the "Crown Prince" of the Tea Party (though that term's origin is tough to nail down). Between that and the fact that his +8 foreign policy and rhetoric is even to the right of uberhawken Lindsey Graham's +6, in Rubio we have a mainstream candidate multiple bases can get excited about.

Conservative Rank based on above: 3 of 16. Only #7 Ted Cruz and #13 Rick Santorum have him beat. That's what we in the business call "rarefied air."

Spin from the candidate's campaign--It's inevitable to flirt with other candidates, but the moment Mitt Romney conceded to President Obama in 2012, Marco Rubio became the natural front-runner for the 2016 nomination, and the polls agreed. As other candidates have since made their intentions clear, we gradually forgot about the guy that made all the sense in the world. It's time to refresh our memories. In Senator Marco Rubio, we have a candidate who's the son of poor Cuban immigrants, who himself is not worth millions, who has an almost unique ability in this field to reach out to Latinos, who comes from the third most populous state in the country and by far the largest swing state, who could easily make Hillary Clinton look old and out of touch, who would also be a demographic "first" like Clinton (which the media will obsess about), and who has the best conservative foreign policy experience of any top contenders.

To that last point, consider that his top rivals--Jeb Bush and Scott Walker--are governors. No foreign policy experience there. By the polls, the next two rivals are Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  Neither have served in politics.  According to the internet-dominating presidential politics blog PPFA, his remaining top competition are Chris Christie, another governor, and Rand Paul, a dove. Rubio, meanwhile, serves on the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and its Select Committee on Intelligence. Would you rather have those novices or Rubio and his experience with foreign affairs running the country in times of crisis with Russia, ISIS, and Iran? Ohhh, Iran. Was any candidate as obvious about his opposition to the recent Obama deal? I think not. Rubio implied that as the next president, he could ignore the deal, and he's insisting any ratification should carry some heavy amendments, like Iran recognizing Israel. All these governors can talk a big game, but what are they doing about it except giving interviews and making empty promises? Senator Rubio is helping make policy while others eat pie in Iowa.

Spin from opponents--We tried a young senator with little experience already, remember? Isn't it time to go back to someone with more experience who can run a state and balance the books? As much as Rubio likes to boast about his foreign policy bona fides, they're not that good. Meanwhile, his supposed ability to reach out to his Latino cousins is overblown; the National Journal calls it his "Latino Problem." Latino Decisions polled 4,200 Latino voters across the country and found he had an underwater 31/36 favorable rating among Latinos:
Rubio National 2014

He's also negative in key swing states, including his own Florida:
Rubio Key States 2014

And when going up against Hillary Clinton in these states? It's no contest.
Clinton Rubio Favorable

In sum: he's too young (he'd be the third youngest president ever), too inexperienced, the experience he does have is the wrong kind to run a government, and he's not able to bring the Latino vote like Republicans had hoped. Why should he be nominated again?

How do the polls look?--His Real Clear Politics national average is 6.8, which puts him at fourth place. He's been badly damaged by the Trump surge; for most of April and May, Rubio was polling at a healthy double-digits, always coming in first, second, or third. In Iowa, his 6.3 average leaves him at eighth place, once again a victim of the Trump surge. In the five polls between the beginning of April and end of May, he polled at 12, 10, 13, 13, and 13, finishing in the top three each time. The very next poll had Trump as a part of it, and Rubio fell to 7. He's been in single digits ever since. In New Hampshire, his 6.0 is good enough for fourth place. Again, he was in double digits for the three polls before the Trump surge. Since then? A scary 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5. In sum, what looked like a healthy candidacy has started to tumble.

PPFA analysis--And yet, across the board the oddsmakers still love him, ranking him the second most likely Republican nominee. Why? Well, for starters:

That was from Gallup two days ago. No candidate in this field has a higher net favorability among Republicans. So even though he might not be the first choice for many Republicans, he seems to be a likely candidate to absorb support once people's preferred candidates start dropping out. Recent polling at YouGov sustains this strength in favorability:
Incredible favorable/unfavorable split for Rubio there. And when we consider Rubio's strength as a  "second choice" candidate:

Even though Trump has helped wreck Rubio's status as a first choice candidate, no candidate does as well as a second choice. Rubio stands to make major gains when lesser names drop out.

In the meantime, he's positioning himself as the best foreign policy candidate of all the top contenders. His Issues page is inundated with foreign policy issues, much more so than any other candidate. He wants people talking about foreign policy in this election. If they are, candidates like him and Ted Cruz are the most likely Republican nominees. Earlier this year, at a Koch Brothers retreat, Rubio was crystal clear about voters' options: It is important for the next president of the United States to understand the diversity of these challenges, to have a global strategic vision and an understanding of what the U.S. role is. . . . Does that mean a governor can’t acquire that? Of course they could. But I’d also say that taking a trip to a foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger either. You’ve got to spend some time on those issues.”

Very direct stuff from the Florida Senator.

It is also no small feat to have the support of establishment hawks and Tea Party activists. His popularity with conservative activists is almost without rival. Even favorite Jeb Bush, with his moderate views on immigration and Common Core, has major difficulties with the conservative base, as do #4 Chris Christie and #6 John Kasich. Meanwhile, #5 Rand Paul, #7 Ted Cruz, and #8 Ben Carson worry mainstream Republicans due to their dovisheness, unelectability, and dearth of political experience, respectively.

These strengths will be extremely valuable in the 2016 Republican Primary. Anyone who considers foreign policy their number one issue--and the National Journal recently cited a GOP poll that says national security was the top concern of Republican voters--but doesn't see eye to eye with quasi-isolationist Rand Paul's worldview, will consolidate to Rubio (though maybe Cruz or, less likely, Graham) by the time it comes to cast their ballot. He'll also have conservative activists rallying to his cause. Finally, as the lesser candidates begin to drop, Rubio will grow support faster than most others. , Marco Rubio has a decent chance to be the 2016 Republican nominee.

PPFA nomination rank--3 of 16 (Odds: 6:1). The three men who are considered favorites by odds and pundits are so obviously the favorites that I think I need to reserve this space as to why he's ranked third of the three. (Also keep in mind that I'll be addressing the strengths of the top two later in the week.) As I've said time and time again during this countdown, the party prefers governors, and the top two men are exactly that. Further helping Bush in these rankings are the numbers from Florida, where Bush has quickly consolidated support from its leaders and electorate. They can guide the country to the Floridian it should support, since they know the candidates better than the rest of the country does. His ranking behind Walker stems from early state polling. Walker has set up a tremendous base of support in Iowa and New Hampshire, competing well in those states for months now. Trump has disrupted Walker's perch a bit, but assuming Trump collapses, Walker should get his mojo back.

PPFA general election rank--4 of 16. I think Christie, Kasich, and Paul will all do better with moderates if nominated, so I've ranked them higher. Still, Rubio's Latino heritage, if not a sure fire way to win the Latino vote, can help offset Clinton's gender as an obsession of the media to have another "first" something. Meanwhile, Florida is nothing to sneeze at. Its 29 electoral votes make it by far the biggest purple prize of the election, outdistancing runner up Pennsylvania's 20 by nearly 50 percent. If we take Mitt Romney's 206 electoral votes and add Florida, that springs the Republican total to 235 and knocks the Democrats from Obama's 332 to 303, a 58 electoral vote swing. Then the Republicans have many more paths to climbing from 235 to 270. Florida is huge.

Of course, another prominent candidate hails from Florida as well, but we haven't gotten to him quite yet. The question is: will we get to him on Wednesday or on Friday? Time will tell. (If you want a sneak peak, you can follow me on Twitter @PPFAmerica, where I always preview a line from the next day's entry.)  See you here on Wednesday!

2 comments:

Stevie K said...

Interesting. His platform is basically, "I'm a likable enough, unlike these other assholes."

No mention of his family's embarrassing drug ties? http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/09/war-of-choice His opponents will be sure to bring that up again.

A quibble: You wrote that "Rubio's Latino heritage, if not a sure fire way to win the Latino vote, can help offset Clinton's gender as an obsession of the media to have another "first" something." But you do realize that you/PPPA are also the media? Maybe you meant, "an obsession of all other media sources and outlets with the exception of America's most-trusted source for presidential politics"?

IC said...

Well, that and, "They don't know about international affairs so don't put the country in their hands."

We'll see! I don't think it'll be relevant.

Maybe you should be my editor.

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