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Rubio’s Underwhelming Campaign

The belief that Rubio is a major contender for the nomination has set him up to fall short of unreasonably high expectations.
marco rubio

Politico reports that Rubio’s campaign isn’t living up to the hype:

For all the recent buzz surrounding his candidacy — fueled by strong debate performances — Rubio isn’t raising enough money to keep pace with his rivals in the top tier and he’s running out of time to assemble a robust field organization.

I’m not surprised by the weaknesses of Rubio’s campaign, but it is a useful reminder that the people that pundits and journalists identify as “top-tier” candidates often can’t match the sometimes unrealistic expectations that are set for them. In Scott Walker’s case, his campaign became too ambitious too early after Walker was built up into being a “top-tier” candidate months before he even declared, and his fundraising couldn’t keep pace as his weaknesses as a candidate became impossible to miss. Rubio’s campaign is supposed to be a much more frugal operation, but as this report indicates it isn’t bringing in the amount of money needed to compete. Despite enjoying a boost in national polling following his last debate performance, Rubio’s position in the first two states has been slipping.

Perhaps if Rubio hadn’t been considered a “top-tier” candidate from the very start, his modest fundraising totals might not seem that low, but because he was incorrectly elevated so early his campaign seems that much more underwhelming. His campaign is probably performing about as well as one would expect from a one-term senator making a long-shot bid for the presidency. The problem for Rubio is that he isn’t perceived this way. On the contrary, he is routinely presented as a leading candidate for the nomination and sometimes as the likely nominee. That has never made sense, but the belief that Rubio is a major contender for the nomination has set him up to fall short of the unreasonably high expectations that have been created for him.

Maybe the most interesting detail in the story is the amount of time that Rubio has spent in Iowa and New Hampshire combined: three weeks. Rubio has been a declared candidate for over six months, and he has missed 30% of Senate votes so far this year. For the most part, he hasn’t been spending that time in the first two states that will determine which candidates last long enough to compete in the rest of the primaries and caucuses, and evidently his campaign isn’t doing much of the spadework to organize in those states, either. Unless that changes fairly soon, that suggests that Rubio will end up with relatively little support when people in those states start voting.