Last December, “Taking Note” carried a headline: “Marco Rubio: The Republican o Watch in 2010.”
“A Republican you should now be following is Florida’s Marco Rubio, a 38-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who is mounting an intriguing campaign for the U.S. Senate against GOP establishment figure Charlie Crist,” read that Dec. 3 column. “Should Rubio win the August primary in Florida, and then the general election — and there’s ample reason to believe he will — Rubio, who already has served as Speaker of the Florida House, would be seated in the U.S. Senate in January of 2011. At this point you would hear rumblings of a Rubio White House run in 2012, but it would be ludicrous for the up-and-coming pol to succumb to the sycophants.”
So, yes, the call on the outcome was correct. Rubio did win on Nov. 2. But as for Rubio’s next move, as the calendar turns, he will face the same two questions a U.S. Sen. Barack Obama did in 2007: Who else? Why not? In other words, perhaps he should succumb.
President Obama announced his campaign for the White House in February 2007 in Springfield, Ill., at one of the coldest events I’ve covered, nearly a year before the Iowa Caucuses.
It’s easy to dismiss Rubio as a presidential candidate with the simple analysis that there’s not nearly enough time. He’d have to begin a campaign before he even dipped his spoon into the Senate soup.
But, as he looks around the potential Republican presidential field, Rubio is well within reason, comfortable outside the boundaries of hubris, to believe he’d have a real shot at the nomination itself.
1. Rubio is already a major political figure. Rubio’s proven he has the goods for the national stage. If you run a Senate race in Florida, you can run for the White House. Period. Before even getting to Washington, he’s in short-list territory as a potential vice presidential running mate for the GOP nominee in 2012. In fact, if he doesn’t run for the Oval Office, pencil Rubio in (or use a Sharpie marker) now as the vice presidential nominee.
2. He already would have served more than a year and a half in the U.S. Senate if he were nominated as the Republican presidential candidate in July or August 2012. What’s more, he served as Speaker of the Florida House — a position that arguably takes more skills and is empirically more impressive than being governor of Alaska.
3. Since U.S. Senate terms are six years, Rubio could run in 2012, build support and a national brand that would make him a powerhouse candidate with the fund-raising to hold his U.S. Senate seat easily in 2016 and earn more legislative influence, should he fail with White House or VP ambitions.
4. He’d have the star quality to stand on a stage with Obama. With an athletic bearing, Rubio, who earned a law degree from the University of Miami, is strong on television (and YouTube, where I watched a number of his speeches and appearances). Rubio and his wife, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, have four children.
5. His working-class bona fides. His mother worked at Kmart and as a hotel maid, and his dad tended bar.
6. The Latino vote. Rubio, as a Miami-born son of Cuban exiles, speaks Spanish (he’s done political analysis for the major Latin TV network Univision). That said, millions of western U.S. Hispanics, largely of Mexican descent, are now on the front lines of the immigration debate. Rubio can’t just show up at quinceaneras (Latino “Sweet 15” parties) in New Mexico or Nevada with an “Hola, amigo” and expect converts. He’d have to bring substance on immigration.
7. The youth vote. If I were a young conservative activist I’d be in West Palm Beach right now begging for a job with the Rubio team. The absence of the 18-29 vote in last Tuesday’s election was devastating for Democrats. Rubio could cut into Obama’s base on the strength of optics and biography.
8. Strike when you have your chance. There are plenty of examples in American history of men who charged when patience was the wiser choice. (Custer comes to mind.) In four years, yes, Rubio will have more experience, but he’ll have votes to defend and perhaps a more impressive GOP field in which to measure himself.
9. Sarah Palin is being taken seriously as a Republican presidential candidate. Witness the national media attention as her recent appearance in Des Moines. Nobody will be laughing at Rubio.
10. Florida. If the GOP locks up Florida in a presidential race, the map looks more friendly.