With his official declaration on Monday that he will be a candidate for president in 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio immediately becomes one of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination, a tribute to his political acumen and voter appeal.
Think what you will of Mr. Rubio’s politics, he’s a serious candidate with an inspiring personal narrative and a strong message that makes the most of his relative youthfulness and recent arrival on the political scene.
Mr. Rubio is relatively short of legislative achievements in Washington, but then so are most first-term senators. What matters is that he has earned respect as one of the GOP’s brightest and most articulate leaders on a variety of issues important to conservatives, including tax and budget matters and foreign policy.
At the outset, two issues that some critics have seized on should be dealt with. The first is that he’s jumping the gun by entering the race at such a young age and still in first Senate term. Really? President Obama had spent even less time in the Senate than Sen. Rubio when he made his presidential declaration in 2007. And Mr. Obama was 47 on Election Day 2008. Mr. Rubio will be 45. And John Kennedy was 43.
Then there is the argument that Mr. Rubio should defer to his mentor and political godfather, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is expected to announce his own candidacy soon. This poses an anguishing choice for friends of both men — of whom there are many in Florida — but the average voter is not likely to see this as an issue.
Ambition is not a bad thing in politics. Politicians lacking in ambition rarely go far. It’s reminiscent, again, of John Kennedy, who was chastised for not deferring to Senate elders like Lyndon Johnson in 1960. He did not listen to the grumbling, and neither should Sen. Rubio.
There will be time in the coming months to examine Mr. Rubio’s policy stands. For now, suffice it to say that he has a plausible path to victory because he appeals to a broader base than Senate rivals like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and, at the same time, also appeals to younger voters and Hispanics.
Floridians — and Miamians, in particular — should be proud to have a native son in the presidential race. It’s about time. Indeed, when Mr. Bush throws his hat into the ring Florida will have two strong contenders in the race, certainly a first for the Sunshine State.
One serious drawback in all this should be of special concern to the people of Florida. With Mr. Rubio now out of the 2016 U.S. Senate race, the senator who replaces him will become the fifth person to hold that seat since 2000, when Sen. Bob Graham was in his last term. The next candidate should be interested not only in winning, but in acquiring the level of seniority that carries political clout and benefits for the state.
One day earlier, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton made her own presidential announcement, which immediately transformed her into the odds-on choice to win the nomination — which is not necessarily a good thing because she likely will face little serious opposition within the party.
Still, Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy carries its own excitement. She brings formidable credentials to the race — first lady, senator from New York, secretary of State — and she is the most serious woman to be a contender for the White House that the country has ever seen. This alone ensures that her race will be an important chapter in U.S. history.