First of all, congratulations to the Republican winner of the Iowa Caucus — West Miami’s own Marco Rubio!
Yeah, yeah, Sen. Rubio came in third, behind Sen. Ted Cruz, who took first place, and Donald Trump. But what a powerful, campaign-revitalizing third. Next to Democrat Bernie Sanders’ incredible seven-month climb to challenge the Clinton steamroller, Mr. Rubio’s showing is the most impressive storyline of the Iowa Caucus. Not bad for one of the “two Cubans guys” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews indecorously dismissed on the air recently.
In fact, both Cuban guys — Sen. Cruz being the other — rocked the caucus.
With the New Hampshire primary six days away, Mr. Rubio almost overnight has become the GOP’s “establishment candidate.”
The heir apparent to that title used to be Mr. Rubio’s once friend and mentor former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Coral Gables resident, who decided to run for president after being out of politics for years. Mr. Bush had a disappointing showing in Iowa; he came in sixth.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Rubio is fashioning himself as the GOP’s best hope against the Democratic front-runner. “We’re going to beat Hillary Clinton, and it won’t be with a flip of a coin,” he said at his first rally after his showing in Iowa, where coins were used to decide winners at some caucus sites.
Mr. Rubio’s camp now calls it a three-way race with Sen. Cruz and Mr. Trump. The rest of the once-crowded field is being left behind. If those candidates drop out, as Mike Huckabee just did, their donors will likely align with Mr. Rubio’s camp.
Among those fighting to hang on by attacking Mr. Rubio is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who wasted no time in going after the new golden boy, dubbing him “the boy in the bubble.” He accused Mr. Rubio of avoiding answering hard questions — an accusation with merit, given some artful dodging during the debates.
Mr. Rubio’s supporters hope that he’s viewed as the best alternative to hard-line Texas Sen. Cruz and the billionaire Trump.
And Mr. Rubio is gaining heady steam. His camp is calling it “Marcomentum.”
On Tuesday, he picked up the endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, an African-American Republican who echoed the campaign’s message of “win-ability.”
“We have one shot in 2016 to beat Hillary Clinton and that shot is Marco Rubio,” Sen. Scott said. “And with him as our candidate, we win.”
Perhaps. But Mr. Rubio will have to show himself to be the Republican conservative progressive that will attract more mainstream GOP voters, adding depth, instead of relying on savvy glibness. In some ways, Mr. Bush comes closer to the mark with, for instance, his more-realistic stance on immigration. Mr. Rubio’s youthful energy masks a political vision that parties like it’s 1959. If he is to make it to the general election, it might not work with independents or Democrats still worried about Ms. Clinton’s trustworthiness.
Mr. Bush clearly is struggling. And given his need to attract the type of anti-Big Government voters who are flocking to Sen. Cruz and Mr. Trump, touting his unseemly intervention in the Terri Schiavo case seemed insensitive and tone deaf. Still, it’s too early to count him out. He’s been quietly working his ground game in New Hampshire, with meet-and-greets and town halls. They could do the trick for the hapless former governor.
Iowa gave a big lift to one Miami-Dade resident’s presidential aspirations. New Hampshire could signal the resuscitation of another’s.