Fresh from his prediction of a Romney landslide, George Will has emerged with more wisdom for the GOP. Will admits that he was wrong about Romney. But he urges Republicans to look at the bright side: “If there’s a winner tonight, it’s the Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio because all eyes are now going to be turned to him as a man who might have a way to broaden the demographic appeal of this party.”
Will is probably correct that Romney’s defeat is good news for Rubio career, at least in the short term. The problem is that the premature elevation of Rubio as frontrunner for 2016 is precisely the wrong strategy for building a Republican majority.
Rubio is young and charismatic. But he’s a vocal supporter of the Bush-era policies that voters have twice rejected, especially on foreign policy. One lesson of this election is that Americans do not want another war. I doubt their appetite for confrontation will increase over the next four years.
Rubio is also, as everyone knows, of Cuban origin. Republicans are deluding themselves, however, if they think that will impress the Mexican-American or Mexican-born citizens who make up the bulk of the “Hispanic” vote. The Republican party does have to find ways to appeal to non-white voters. But tokenism based on a misunderstanding of ethnic and cultural divisions is unlikely to get the job done.
Republicans have a history of seeking a charismatic personality to lead them to victory. In recent years, this has allowed them to avoid the unpleasant task of facing the reality of the national electorate and the consequences of their policies. Romney’s defeat has given Republicans an opportunity to reconsider their most politically toxic commitments: a foreign policy of endless war, and tax policies that most directly benefit the rich. It would be a shame to squander that opportunity by searching for a perfect messenger for the same old message.