But Rubio is also making the most shallow appeal of any Republican in the field. The undisguised promise of his candidacy is that his youth and background will allow him to herald an orthodox Republican policy agenda as somehow distinct and visionary. Perhaps because his heterodoxies are so superficial, Rubio enjoys the support of only 23 percent of Hispanic voters, lower than the paltry share that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
I’ve said several times that Rubio’s candidacy doesn’t make sense, and this is one of the reasons why it doesn’t. The rationale of a Rubio candidacy is that he can supposedly expand their party’s coalition by touting his own biography and family history. In other words, he is trying to get Republican voters to get behind an exercise in the sort of identity politics most of them profess to loathe by offering them the false promise of winning over new blocs of voters. The favorability number that Beutler cites shows that Rubio isn’t going to improve the GOP’s fortunes with Hispanics in particular or traditionally non-Republican voters in general. That’s not news, but it is a useful reminder that the GOP isn’t going to gain anything from a Rubio nomination and it is one more reason why Republican primary voters are unlikely to rally behind him in the future.
There are at least one other reason why the “Republican Obama” label doesn’t suit Rubio very well. Whatever superficial similarities the two may have in their resumes, Rubio is in a different position vis-a-vis the incumbent president than Obama was. In contrast to Obama’s anti-Bush positioning, Rubio has actually been best-known for supporting some policies that Obama also favors. Rubio’s main legislative effort as a senator was to try to push through an immigration bill that Obama supported, and on foreign policy he has been in favor of Obama’s military interventions while complaining that they not aggressive enough. The Edwards comparison isn’t perfect, but it makes a certain amount of sense. For instance, Rubio backed the Libyan war and then complained about how it was managed in much the same way that Edwards made an opportunistic turn against the Iraq war that he voted to authorize. The very things that make some party elites celebrate Rubio are the very things that prove that he isn’t the Republican equivalent to Obama.