IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 Mar. 2016
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
Rubio the Irrelevant
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – The political career of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is on the line. If he stays in the presidential race and loses his home state in next Tuesday’s Florida primary, it could mean career-over. If he drops out before then, he might hold on to a political future. Either way, the polls indicate he will not affect the race. But maybe the polls are wrong like they were in Michigan last week when they showed Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., far behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Sanders pulled off an upset win. But if the polls are right, Rubio is about to get crushed by Donald Trump.
He’s not the first. The Donald likes to remind everyone that there were once 14 Republican candidates, and now the field is down to four. If Trump wins Florida and Ohio too, which also votes on Tuesday, he will be well on his way to locking up the GOP nomination.
Rubio is poised to become Trump’s next conquest, or victim, depending on which term you prefer. His fortunes cratered after he went after Trump in the most juvenile, sandbox language. Trump swatted him away, cutting Rubio down to size. When the results came in from the next round of states, all Rubio could muster was a win in Minnesota caucus voting, and in Puerto Rico.
Rubio vigorously denied rumors that he might drop out of the race before Tuesday’s vote in Florida, but it doesn’t matter. Unless he manages to pull off a Bernie-style last-minute upset that defies all the prediction, he can’t stop Trump by staying in the race, or by getting out of the race.
Republicans once thought they could stop Trump if the field against him coalesced, and they could get a one-on-one race with the billionaire New Yorker. That’s still the path to the nomination that Ted Cruz dreams about, and he has some claim to believing it might be true since he has actually won six states compared to Rubio’s two and John Kasich’s zero.
But earth to Ted, even if Rubio drops out, there’s no guarantee his votes would go to you. They might move to Trump. Everybody loves a winner, and there’s a bandwagon effect that begins to kick in if Trump continues to confound his critics by racking up more votes than his competitors.
The campaign so far has been soul crushing for the candidates. Every one of them with the possible exception of Ohio Governor Kasich has been taken apart and ridiculed. While Trump has been the instigator much of the time, he’s also taken lots of hits. As he pointed out in his victory speech Tuesday night in Florida, anti-Trump forces spent $38 million dollars in the previous week on negative ads saying “horrible, horrible things about me.”
Trump has high negatives, but then so does his likely opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton. History tells us that when candidates have high negatives, more people stay home because they can’t stomach voting for either contender.
Democrats are confident that the stakes are so high in November, with the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court all up for grabs, that voters who don’t like Clinton will still show up for her at the polls. And Republicans may in the end overcome their resistance to Trump if he’s their guy because that’s how tribal politics works.
How Rubio fares in Florida on Tuesday is a test case of where the voters are, and whether they believe Rubio’s spiel that he is their vehicle to stop Trump. There are lots of reasons for Rubio’s failure to connect. One of them might be his dismissive attitude toward the Senate seat he won six years ago.
He was a Tea Party darling then, and he disappointed that wing of the party when he supported comprehensive immigration reform. Then he ran away from it, and that didn’t make anybody happy. The only thing we really knew about Rubio was his ambition. He was a man in a hurry. But after hitting one speed bump after another, he may be at the end of the road, at least for now.
Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.
© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND