The Perpetually Overrated Rubio
Jonathan Chait wonders why the Democrats’ Senate campaign committee is pulling its resources out of the Florida race:
Yes, Rubio was steamrolled in the primaries. But not every candidate who loses is a bad politician. If Rubio holds his Senate seat by a few points or less, and then wins his party’s nomination in four years, Democrats will be kicking themselves they didn’t pull out every stop to end his political career, in the short term, when they had the chance.
It’s still possible that Rubio could end up losing the re-election bid he had said he wouldn’t pursue, but even if he wins Chait is worrying about a scenario that is extremely unlikely to happen. Rubio may very well run for president again in the next cycle. His multiple statements that he doesn’t intend to do that don’t mean very much, and they mean even less when we remember that he pledged not to seek re-election because of his last presidential campaign. But another Rubio campaign would likely be hampered by many of the same problems that dogged him this year: his reputation for opportunism, his flip-flopping on the Gang of Eight bill that gave him that reputation, his lack of relevant experience, and his lack of any accomplishments in the Senate.
Supposing that Rubio does win re-election, he would end up in an evenly-divided or Democratic-controlled Senate where he would have few opportunities to put his name on any legislation that has a chance of being signed into law. If he did manage to get his name on a major bill signed by Clinton, that would tar him in the eyes of many Republicans, and if he doesn’t he would continue to be a senator who gets nothing done for his constituents. Trump voters would have no reason to get behind a future Rubio bid since he represents much of what they dislike about the party, and many anti-Trump Republicans would presumably hold his late support for Trump against him. All politicians are opportunists, but Rubio is a little too obvious and abrupt in his maneuvering, and that means that lots of people on both sides of the party don’t trust him. Obviously, many things can happen between now and then that could change some of this, but I very much doubt that the GOP is going to change so much in the next few years that enough primary voters are going to get behind Rubio next time around.
All of this should go without saying, but for some reason Rubio is judged by a very different standard. Any other candidate who was trounced in his own state’s primary and won only a handful of other contests in a race against two of the least likable people in his party would not be taken seriously as a major contender for the nomination in the future. He would be appropriately written off. If Rubio loses next month, maybe he finally will be.