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.
As Goldman argues, and as I was saying last night, Rubio doesn’t “have a way” to broaden the GOP’s demographic appeal. The instinct to turn to Rubio primarily because of his ethnicity reeks of desperation, which is hardly appealing, and it announces to rank-and-file voters that party and movement leaders want to resume fruitless efforts to pander to groups that are supposedly “natural” Republicans. Because his foreign policy preferences represent some of the worst that the modern GOP has to offer, he would be hard-pressed to broaden the Republican coalition. As Michael said last night, Republicans need to become and be perceived as capable of governing well, and only then can its coalition grow. There are not many people looking for a new Joe Lieberman to lead them into Syria, or wherever the next conflict might happen to be, and there will be many conservatives who won’t want to support a protege of Jeb Bush. It’s not difficult to imagine how rallying behind Rubio could make things worse for the GOP among its reliable supporters and backfire among those outside the party that he is supposed to be able to attract.
The bigger flaw in that statement from Will is the assumption that this is something to be fixed by nominating the right sort of person, as if a party’s demographic appeal depended mainly on the personal history of its presidential candidates or other political leaders. If a party has little or nothing relevant to say to a certain constituency or group, the people at the top of the party won’t make any difference. When the leaders of a party hold many policy views that alienate a constituency, modifying one isn’t a remedy.