creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion General Opinion
David Harsanyi
David Harsanyi
5 Feb 2016
Obama's Mosque Speech Was a Dangerous Fantasy

For eight years now, the president has reprimanded the American people for their attitudes about Islam. And … Read More.

29 Jan 2016
What If Trump Wins?

There are many potential outcomes to a Donald Trump GOP nomination. And every one of them is a disaster for conservatives. … Read More.

22 Jan 2016
It's an Era of Angry Populism and No One Is Immune

As many conservatives grapple with the growing prospect of a Donald Trump presidential nomination, I've … Read More.

The Unmaking of Marco Rubio

Comment

Did one robotic moment in a single debate really bring down Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, probably finishing him off nationally? Unlikely.

It's difficult to believe that voters would turn on a candidate over one gaffe — yet, somehow, it can also make perfect sense in this cycle. Either way, let's stop pretending 2016 voters are concerned about authenticity. What they're really asking of politicians is for better acting while delivering canned lines. Because they're all canned lines.

Nearly every candidate is a talking-point-spewing automaton. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz — and even much of what Donald Trump says — is prefabricated, tested and constructed to appeal to whatever subsection of the electorate they hope to entice. The most talented candidates can repeat those lines, jokes and touching anecdotes with the same bogus earnestness every single time. This is their real talent. I mean, even Trump — probably the only top-tier candidate regularly going off script — strings together many of the same absurdities in mind-numbing platitudinous loops, and his fans eat it up.

Still, there's no question that Rubio failed to deliver on this front last week. And while he's no more prone to offer calculated responses than is Clinton or Sanders, Rubio let the political world create a caricature. All the usual suspects joined in, because, whether you like him or not, Democrats fear Rubio more than they do any other Republican.

The robot talking point was regurgitated in dozens of articles, a million tweets and by political cartoonists. Activists, lacking basic self-respect, began following Rubio around in robot outfits. The Washington Post explained what it all meant: "What Marco Rubio's robotic debate performance reveals." Well, it probably reveals that we — pundits, bloggers, media and probably most voters — like to turn candidates into one-dimensional cartoon characters who can be easily mocked, categorized, memed and dispensed.

Caricatures are easier to hate, and also easier to support. Trump the brash fighter. Mitt Romney the out-of-touch job killer. Cruz the Machiavellian meanie. Jeb the awkward establishmentarian. Bernie the pure-hearted ideologue. Rubio the robot. You know how it works.

While this line of attack, brought on by his own performance, almost certainly had something to do with his showing in New Hampshire, I'm not fully sold on the debate theory.

Whatever you make of Rubio's positions — and I'm not crazy about plenty of them — he's an impressive politician. According to CNN, voters broke away from Rubio at the end, but exit polls (and you can take them for what they are) show that while the debate mattered to many voters, Rubio fared only slightly worse than most other Republicans.

Rubio's problems are far deeper than some flub. For starters, he seems to believe that if he's perceived as the most electable GOP contender in the general, rank-and-file conservatives will come to him as they have often done in similar situations in the past. Well, 2016 doesn't work that way. This is an election about grievances and anger, not expedient positioning.

Other than his third place "win" in Iowa, Rubio has done nothing to distinguish his candidacy. His middling poll numbers have never suggested a clear path through the crowded moderate/establishment/governors field. In his own weird way, Trump has clogged this "moderate" path. Bush and Chris Christie, theoretically the closest ideologically to Rubio, have worked to sink him. And they probably have. No Republican has ever lost Iowa and New Hampshire and won the nomination.

A bigger problem, as James Poulos pointed out the other day, is that the trust issue is too much to overcome.

Rubio, like Barack Obama before him, has been running for president since the day he joined the Senate. The guy has a lot going for him, but he disastrously misread the mood of the country with the bipartisan reform bill on immigration. In the Obama/tea party era, you can be a principled senator who attempts to get things done (and Rubio was almost certainly a sincere believer in immigration reform), or you can try to be president. You can't do both. For many conservatives, immigration is the most pressing economic, political and cultural issue the nation faces. They can absolve you of wrongdoing if you were a tepid supporter of amnesty; not if you're part of the gang trying to push through the bill. Robot or not.

In his New Hampshire concession speech, Rubio showed some humility, admitted he had a bad debate, and promised that it would never happen again. Then he launched into another prefabricated, message-heavy speech, because that's what good politicians do. They're disciplined. But if Rubio has a chance — and it's a long shot — he'll have to alter the perceptions about his messaging. It's the difference between ending up as Dan Quayle or President George W. Bush. But even if he accomplishes that, it seems unlikely he can overcome his history and the country's mood. Not in 2016.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
David Harsanyi
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Linda Chavez
Linda ChavezUpdated 12 Feb 2016
Suzanne Fields
Suzanne FieldsUpdated 12 Feb 2016
Patrick Buchanan
Pat BuchananUpdated 12 Feb 2016

22 Apr 2010 Next on Cowardly Central

21 Feb 2014 No, There Is No Consensus on Obama's Policies

9 Jan 2013 Can Republicans Win a Government Shutdown?