Sen. Marco Rubio wants to be president of the United States. It is not a harebrained wish. The fact that his party selected him to respond to Obama’s State of the Union speech proves that many influential people join him in that hope. They believe in him.
What are his “comparative advantages” for the electoral battle?
He is young but long on experience that includes the speakership of the Florida House. He is an eloquent attorney. He is a bilingual, bicultural Hispanic, which means that the mainstream does not reject him and many Hispanics look at him sympathetically, even if he’s not Mexican, a group that accounts for 70 percent of Hispanic Americans.
He is a Christian, a circumstance that might help him among certain believers. He is a Reagan conservative; in other words, he mistrusts the ability of government to benefit individuals. He has a reputation as a family man and is blessed with a pleasant personality.
In addition, his biography fits perfectly with the story of the American self-made man who comes from a home of poor immigrants and climbs the social ladder through hard work and study. His triumph within the party against the natural candidate, Gov. Charlie Crist, and later his successful general election campaign to reach the U.S. Senate certify him as someone to whom attention must be paid. He knows how to play his cards skillfully but also with toughness, if necessary.
What are the factors against him? His Republican Party in general has decided to control Americans’ crotch and has managed to antagonize women who wish to keep control over their own bodies — i.e., the right to terminate pregnancy — and homosexuals and lesbians, to whom it challenges the right to wed. Or it denies gays and lesbians the right to join the armed forces, so long as they proclaim their sexual orientation.
On the economic field, his Republican Party, in addition to being perceived as anti-immigrant, has allowed itself to be branded as a club for rich white males insensitive to the needs of the poor and enemies of the interests of retirees, whose medical insurance or pension they want to take away or reduce, instead of presenting themselves (as in the Reagan era) as the pro-immigrant party that knew how wealth is created and wasted.
This limitation of the Republican Party was confirmed clearly during the recent elections. Ninety percent of the time, candidate Mitt Romney was forced to defend his ideas and proposals as if he were the president, while President Obama did not have to explain his actions in government, or the enormous public debt, or the poor performance of the labor market. Why? because his skillful communications machine had turned the Democratic Party into a charitable institution that defended the neediest. The problem was Romney’s alleged ideas, not Obama’s performance in government.
In any case, the most important factor in delivering or denying Rubio the White House will not be his personal virtues, not even the good or bad image of Republicanism, but the performance of the Democrats in Obama’s second term.
What carried Reagan to the presidency in 1981 was not his charm or his experience as governor of California, or the power of his neoconservative ideas based on the vision of Hayek and Friedman. It was the disastrous administration of Jimmy Carter, who did almost everything wrong or was plagued by bad luck, from inflation to the kidnapping of Americans in Teheran, including Moscow’s imperial spasm in Afghanistan. To quote a Spanish saying, “had he bought a circus, his midgets would have grown.”
Politics have that sinister component: despite Romney’s experience, the candidate’s chances increase or diminish with the fate of the previous leader. Marco Rubio, like any other challenger, would benefit from his adversary’s failure. If that happens, and if he manages to improve the public’s perception of his party, he could be the first Hispanic to occupy the White House.
He would reach the top on the shoulders of the president’s failure. Just like Reagan did.