Isaac Chotiner reviews why Rubio’s candidacy failed:
In his speech on Tuesday, when he had finished insulting Trump, he began speaking about issues like a strong defense of Israel, appearing once again more like a creation of Republican elites than a spokesman for average voters [bold mine-DL]. Republicans have delivered a harsh verdict on traditional Republican priorities this winter, which is why Trump—who says (disingenuously) that he’d approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a neutral party—has been able to shunt aside GOP priorities while remaining popular with GOP voters. Rubio’s political acumen, long overrated, has proven particularly lacking in this environment.
I have maintained for a long time that a Rubio presidential bid made no sense, so it doesn’t surprise me that it hasn’t worked. As Chotiner says, he is too much of an ideologue, too out-of-touch with what rank-and-file Republicans actually care about, and too wedded to a discredited, bankrupt agenda. While he leans heavily on his parents’ humble origins in his stump speech, he is obviously the favorite of wealthy donors and party elites and has adopted the policies they prefer. This has made him almost uniquely unsuited to an election cycle in which most Republicans deeply distrust many of the very same people that desperately want Rubio as the nominee. Rubio was already overrated in 2014 when he was first being called the “leading contender” for the nomination, and he has only become more so during the campaign.
Something that has surprised me a little over the last few months is how eager so many Republicans have been to ignore his fairly obvious weaknesses as a candidate. His boosters have declared him to be the most electable candidate, but somehow they forget that he had won exactly one statewide race in a very Republican midterm year. In other words, there’s no proof that he would be a good general election candidate in a presidential year, much less a good presidential candidate in the general election. That exaggeration of his electoral appeal was part of a pattern of overselling Rubio’s abilities. Despite showing terrible political and policy judgment on the Gang of Eight bill, he was constantly touted as a future leader of the party. Even though his foreign policy experience was meager and his policy views dangerously hard-line, he was lauded for his supposed “expertise.” He had virtually no relevant experience to be president, so he was perceived to be too green, and the policies he was promoting were throwbacks to previous decades. If voters wanted a break with past Republican failures, Rubio offered them nothing, and if they wanted someone with a record of accomplishment and competence in government he likewise had nothing for them. Sold as the candidate of the future, Rubio was determined to cling to the ideological detritus of the Bush era. Little wonder that most Republican voters haven’t been going for it.