Home/Daniel Larison/Rubio Is Still Overrated By Everyone Except Voters

Rubio Is Still Overrated By Everyone Except Voters

Ezra Klein remains convinced Rubio will be the Republican nominee:

I still have trouble believing that any of the outsiders will win the Republican nomination. It still seems obvious to me that Republicans should nominate Rubio if they want to win, and so I keep assuming they’ll do that.

Klein reaches this conclusion because it “seems obvious” to Klein that Rubio gives Republicans’ the best chance at winning the general election, but he never really explains why that is so obvious. As he admits, there is “no obvious evidence to support my prediction,” and yet that remains his prediction. The reason for that is that Rubio continues to be overrated by journalists and pundits from both parties, who consistently fail to recognize his weaknesses as a candidate.

The assumption behind both the Rubio and Bush candidacies is that they are supposed to be more “electable” than their more conservative competitors, but that has never made that much sense. Rubio is supposed to be able to expand the Republican coalition because he is young and Hispanic and from a swing state, but there is no evidence at all that his appeal to voters beyond the current GOP coalition exists. The relevant polling has shown for years that Rubio is broadly unpopular with Hispanics nationwide and doesn’t fare very well in hypothetical match-ups against Clinton among these voters. His standing in Florida is also not that great, so it’s not even obvious that the GOP would be able to count on winning Florida if he were the nominee.

The argument for Rubio’s candidacy has been a circular one: he is the “savior” of the party because he will win over new voters for the GOP, and new voters will support a Rubio-led GOP because he is the party’s “savior.” The one thing that made him potentially more appealing to non-Republicans was his old position on immigration, which he has done his best to repudiate over the last two years. Meanwhile, his record on immigration doesn’t endear him to most Republicans, which is why despite a seemingly endless succession of “moments” when Rubio is supposed to be on the rise he continues to have quite limited support in the nomination contest. Most Republicans may generally like Rubio, but they either don’t see him as being obviously the most electable or they have enough reservations about his candidacy for one reason or another that they don’t want him as the nominee anyway.

That brings me to the part of Rubio’s candidacy that is oddly left out of many discussions about him, which is his foreign policy record. More than any other Republican candidate, with the exception of Lindsey Graham, Rubio has banked on his supposed foreign policy expertise to set him apart from the rest of the field, and he has made a point of endorsing very hawkish and confrontational positions on every issue. There is almost no military intervention that he doesn’t or wouldn’t support, and the one time he actually voted against military action in Syria it was because he thought the proposed action was too limited and small. While this may not hurt him with many Republican primary voters, it has made it impossible to miss that Rubio wants to commit the U.S. to endless policing of foreign conflicts and that he seems to be willing to court great power conflict in the process. That is not appealing to large numbers of Republicans, who would rather have their candidates focus on problems here in the U.S., and it is even less appealing to most Americans outside the GOP. Democrats often say that they are most worried about running against Rubio, but I think they would be only too happy to run against a reflexive interventionist with minimal foreign policy experience, and that is what Rubio is.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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