Why Isn’t Marco Rubio Winning?
Ross Douthat JAN. 28, 2016 501 COMMENTS
… In the month after that confrontation, Bush’s national numbers slipped into the lower single digits, while Rubio’s climbed steadily. In early December, he and Ted Cruz both had about 15 percent support in the national polls, below Donald Trump but well above all the other professional politicians in the race. It seemed as if they were rising in tandem, and that Rubio was destined to be the establishment’s preferred candidate in a three-man race with Cruz and Trump — and based on past results, the likely nominee.
But instead, Rubio hit a ceiling, while Cruz continued to climb. And despite a long series of “moments” when he was supposed to consolidate his position, the Florida senator is still basically stuck. He’s hovering just above 10 percent in national polls and in New Hampshire, trailing Cruz and Trump by a clear margin in Iowa, and still lagging Jeb in the endorsement primary.
It’s all about immigration. In a race dominated by Trumpian nationalism, and with immigration restriction increasingly a litmus test for many conservative voters, Rubio’s role in the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill is plainly a liability. Possibly enough of a liability, in fact, to deny him the nomination.
At the same time, though, there are still lots of Republican voters who don’t consider the immigration issue a top priority, and lots of Republican donors and elected officials for whom Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” support is probably an asset. So immigration might explain why he trails Trump and Cruz in Iowa, but not why he can’t put away Jeb, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
Here’s another idea: Rubio is the human epitomization of the Republican billionaire class’s evident desire to turn the United States into Latin America Norte, with its vast inequalities of wealth, rigged social systems, and fragile rule of law. This urge isn’t as annoying in Rubio as it is in the perversely anti-American ¡Jeb¡ because Rubio’s loyalty to the Latin American way of doing things is understandably natural and personally conservative (in the sense of Rubio having concentric loyalties that start with the Miami Cuban community).
But Americans have very good reasons for not wanting their country to turn further into an outpost of Latin America. In retrospect, Rubio was well-positioned by ethnicity to instead lead resistance to the billionaires’ hopes to worsen the Latinization of our country (on the Nixon-goes-to-China principle of politics).
Whether Rubio ever had the imagination to have seized that opportunity is unknown. But, as far as I can tell, it never even occurred to anybody important whom Rubio talks to. Instead the Republican Brain Trust decided it was a brilliant idea for Rubio, being Latino, to lead the amnesty / guest worker push to Latinize the country, kind of like, if you wanted detente with Russia and China in 1968, you’d have drafted Alger Hiss to run for President.