Home/Daniel Larison/Rubio’s Puzzling Presidential Bid

Rubio’s Puzzling Presidential Bid

Marco Rubio appears to be planning to make his quixotic presidential bid official in two weeks:

Mr. Rubio has made tentative arrangements to announce his White House bid on April 13 at the historic Freedom Tower in Miami, a Rubio adviser said, though aides haven’t yet made final the location and timing. The Freedom Tower is where thousands of Cuban refugees were admitted to the country during the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants.

The choice of location fits in with the themes that Rubio likes to emphasize, and he will probably make an effective announcement speech when the time comes. That said, the decision to run makes no more sense today than it did a few months ago. Opting for a presidential campaign means that Rubio won’t be seeking re-election. He might have had a harder time winning in 2016 than he did in 2010, but he would have had the advantage of being the incumbent senator. He’s throwing that away on a weird gamble to pursue a nomination even he must know he won’t win. His decision not to seek re-election makes it more difficult for the Republicans to hold the seat, and it puts Republican control of the Senate in greater jeopardy than it would be otherwise. Barring some extraordinary surprise, that means that Rubio’s national political career will be coming to a screeching halt in less than a year from now. His ego trip could end up helping Democrats claim control of the upper chamber in the next election, which would be a fitting conclusion to Rubio’s brief moment as the GOP’s “savior.” I’m obviously not a Rubio fan, but his boosters must be more than a little perplexed by what he’s doing.

At present, Rubio has almost no support in the early states. It is possible that could be partly due to the fact that Rubio is still not known to large numbers of Republicans. That shows how relatively obscure he is when compared to many of his likely opponents. Considering how often he has inserted himself into high-profile debates over the last four years, Rubio is one of the least well-known 2016 candidates. According to Gallup, just over half of Republicans nationally know enough about him to have an opinion about him.

Meanwhile, most Floridians don’t want him to run for president, and two-thirds of Floridian Republicans want him to run for re-election. That may help explain why his support in Florida–his best state by far–is in the mid-teens among Republican primary voters. It’s not as if he is overwhelmingly popular overall, either. His approval rating as senator is just 45%. Many more independents disapprove of Rubio than approve (48% disapprove/35% approve). That suggests that Rubio can’t even expand the Republican coalition in his own state. The people that like him want him to keep the job he has, and less than half of the state electorate approves of how he’s been doing his job. There is almost no constituency for a Rubio presidential bid in Florida, so why would there be much support for it anywhere else? As I’ve said before, there is no rationale for a Rubio presidential campaign, which makes Rubio’s determination to run this year all the more puzzling.

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.

leave a comment