There will be plenty of postmortems dissecting how Marco Rubio went from Tea Party darling Senator-elect in 2010 to a humiliating flame-out in this year’s presidential election.
The five obvious reasons, in order of importance, we think, are:
1. His leadership of the “Gang of Eight” amnesty scheme.
2. His leadership of the “Gang of Eight” amnesty scheme.
3A. His robotic persona in the debates.
3B. His resemblance to Barack Obama in 2008: a blank slate, with few accomplishments and no executive experience, who says the right things on the surface—allowing voters to project whatever specific viewpoints they wished upon him—and checks the diversity boxes. (Notwithstanding (3A), Rubio’s rhetoric is, of course, more substantive than Obama’s.)
3C. Later in the race, his association with the D.C. establishment.
Although we are glad that the primary campaign served its purpose of vetting candidate Rubio, we can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that he didn’t live up to his promise. To take one example, his speech after President Obama announced his appeasement of Cuba in December 2014 was outstanding.
It is certainly plausible that he could come back. At 44, he has decades of opportunity left in him. How he uses the first of those decades will speak to his character and his seriousness to be a viable presidential candidate.
The best course of action for Rubio would be to run for governor of Florida in 2018, when Gov. Rick Scott (R) cannot run again due to term limits. Rubio needs the executive credentials and gravitas that would come from such a stint. Of course an electoral loss would derail him (though it didn’t in Richard Nixon’s case, though he had already accumulated a more substantive resume), but he needs to take the risk.
Another alternative would be to angle for a cabinet position—something far away from immigration—like Secretary of Education or Secretary of Transportation. A university presidency would not be as beneficial, but if he governs like Mitch Daniels, then it could be a step in the right direction.
Of course he should repudiate his actions as part of the “Gang of Eight.” We don’t think that this will be a major challenge, as President Trump will provide cover by, in concert with Congress, completely changing the way that the U.S. implements immigration policy. (If Hillary Clinton wins, then no one as conservative as Marco Rubio is ever likely to be elected president again, so this whole discussion would be moot.)
A Fox News gig in the meantime would be OK. We hope that he doesn’t sit out the political debate and then come riding back onto the scene out of nowhere. We hope that he does not take the petulant step of resigning from the Senate early. Though it would give the Republicans the benefit of incumbency following an appointment by Gov. Scott, such a move is not statesman-like.
What he especially should not do is to trod the familiar path of retired establishment politicians and take a high-paying, non-work job in a law or lobbying firm, investment bank, or private equity firm—and then present himself to us again in eight or twelve or sixteen years’ time with only that additional resume item. Such an occupation would do nothing but reinforce his lack of executive credentials and his membership in the D.C. establishment. Spending his prime years as a high-class Republican community organizer wouldn’t mitigate the perception of him as another Barack Obama.
No doubt Rubio, who has suffered financial challenges, wants to cash in—and we never begrudge someone that—but if he’s serious about mounting another presidential campaign, he’s going to have to find a way to do more than that.